The Rutgers 250 All-Star Variety for July 2016 is the ‘NJF16’ TangOs® peach! This tree fruit variety deserves the spotlight for its novel attributes that appeal to both consumers and growers. This beautiful peach is desirable to consumers because of its flat shape, 100% yellow color, and deliciously sweet flavor. What makes this peach so special for farmers and home gardeners is its resistance to environmental threats, high yields per tree, and good firmness for safe transportation. TangOs® and the Rutgers tree fruit breeding program are being featured as part of the New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station’s (NJAES) Rutgers 250 All-Star Varieties celebration.
During the month of July, farmers typically start to see whether or not their crops will come to fruition. This can be a nerve-racking time of year, especially this year where tree fruits began to bloom earlier than usual due to a record-breaking warm winter. Tree fruits were flowering and preparing to bear fruit about one month earlier than average, sparking a lot of anxiety about frost vulnerability in New Jersey’s agricultural community during April and May 2016. Peach season spans early July to mid-September in New Jersey. However, due to the warm winter and early bloom followed by a damaging late frost, peach trees were severely impacted and only 50% of peaches are coming to fruition in some areas. At this point, it appears that peach yields across the state are likely to be impacted more than any other tree fruit. Fortunately, cold-hardy fruits like apples seem to be doing well, underscoring the importance of diversifying crops when attempting to produce fruit in an ever-changing climate like New Jersey’s.
Breeder Joseph Goffreda (CC’83) has dedicated nearly three decades of research to the Rutgers New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station tree fruit breeding program. Last year, he won an “Inventor of the Year” award from the New Jersey Inventors Hall of Fame for breeding a hybrid peach, ‘NJF16’. Marketed under the name TangOs®, this variety is less susceptible to pests and major diseases, particularly bacterial spot. Goffreda’s dedication to tree fruit breeding has been instrumental in the production of tree fruit in the Northeast. ‘Gloria,’ another NJAES variety of peach, blooms later than most peach cultivars and cropped well this year at the Rutgers Fruit and Ornamental Research Extension Center in Cream Ridge, New Jersey. Selective breeding for resistance to frost and new pests provides hope that the tree fruit industry in the Northeast will be able to survive and adapt to threats, including seasonality.
During the Meet the Breeder Q&A on Ag Field Day, Goffreda, who directs the Rutgers Fruit and Ornamental Research Extension Center, taught many eager children, adults, students, and alumni about tree fruit breeding. He brought pollen, blossoms and a sieve to demonstrate how to cross-pollinate ‘Honeycrisp’ with ‘Suncrisp’ apples. He also brought plant plugs to show what tree fruits look like during the first year of growth.
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