Scientists tackle peach chill-hour requirements

01/24/2013 12:12:00 PM
Vicky Boyd

peach bloomsVicky BoydPeach trees require specific hours of chilling to product a strong bloom and crop.As global climate change warms temperatures, stone fruit trees that require wintertime chilling hours are beginning to suffer.

The trees won't necessarily die if the winter is too warm—they just won't produce many blooms or fruit, according to a news release.

A group of Clemson University researchers in South Carolina is working on plant dormancy and chilling.

They hope to locate genes within the peach genome responsible for chilling requirements, dormancy and growth.

The resarechers could then provide the gene markers to breeders to incorporate into current varieties.

“The work we are doing not only involves understanding the chilling requirement, but also should help us breed for increased heat requirement to help protect the industry from late freezes,” Clemson University plant biologist Douglas Bielenberg said in the release. "The challenge is that heat requirement is not very well understood and is difficult to study since the timing of chilling and heat requirements overlap."

The research isn't limited to peaches, either, and could be applicable to other perennial fruit and nut crops, such as apples, that also require chilling hours.

South Carolina ranks second only to California in peach production.

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