QUOTE: “Chunxian Chen (peach researcher at Bryon, GA fruit and nut research unit) explained that new varieties continue to be needed because the southeastern peach industry is facing multiple challenges, including more incidences of warm winters and spring freezes, which can change chilling requirements. Other industry needs include improved fruit quality, competition from other fruits and imports, and demand for varieties with improved resistance to pests/diseases and reduced need for pesticides. There also is a need for varieties to fill certain harvest windows.”
You can contact the peach breeder here (she is also working on new rootstocks for peaches)
Research Horticulturist email@example.com
Phone: (478) 956-6467
Their customer is commercial orchards, and brown rot is not a problem if you are doing weekly cover sprays like they do. I too wish they bred more for backyard growers and maybe one day they will, but that day is not here yet…
it only costs a few hundred dollars to sequence a new peach variety’s genome (it’s a pretty small genome and there’s a high quality reference genome already available). there’s no way to edit a peach tree and grow out the edited plant, yet, but once that’s possible the tools to pick the genes you want are going to be cheap enough to crowd source. the opportunities for crowd sourcing are:
growing out populations of trees and ranking them for disease resistance, then sequencing all of them to identify the genes responsible (could be done today for a few thousand dollars and lots of time, and is a common enough thing that individual grad students can do it)
making a bunch of crosses guided by this knowledge, and screening the crossed plants early (known as marker-assisted selection). this doesn’t require any editing techniques, can be done today (and is being done today)
or… directly editing a peach tree to have the genes you want and propagating it (can’t be done yet with peaches specifically)
here are some of the known markers in various fruit crops, this is from a project that ran a few years ago along these lines but is now closed down since the tools have gotten so accessible:
I don’t see brown rot resistance in there but it’s a few years out of date, who knows
I agree. No one wants to take on rot. The closest I have to rot resistance is Elberta and a mini peach. The mini peaches are small and poor tasting, but they never rot. Maybe I should try crossing them with Elberta. Could be my ticket to millions of dollars.
today, for peaches, yeah I’d agree. but the cost of sequencing has followed an exponential decay curve. it’ll only need a couple more drops before it’s the better way. you could run programs that would have taken an entire acre of trees and a few years the old way, in one season in a bunch of trees sleeves, only taking as long as it takes to stratify and grow them out to a couple leaves in a greenhouse
I’m not sure about the current state of peach breeding using gene editing tools but 3 years ago I heard a plant breeder describe CRISPR as tool that would allow him to edit plant genes like a word processor edits text. I took his comments to mean that in the near future he could remove the genes that were sensitive to brown rot or canker or something undesirable and replace them with ones that were not. His audience was commercial peach growers not breeders so I’m sure he over simplified the process. After three years I would have thought that CRISPR and other gene editing tools would have revolutionized the traditional plant breeding process. He also mentioned that plants bred like this were are not considered Genetically Modified.
I also recall that a comprehensive certification was required to insure their new peach variety was virus free before it could be sold. I believe the cost was around $2000
yes that’s accurate but for peaches specifically there’s a problem of not yet being able to perform the edit and then grow out the edited plant without chimerism, see this article:
as to whether it’s genetically modified, that’s a spectrum and the term GMO is somewhat politicized/weaponized so it would be nice to say it isn’t and cut off that debate, but I don’t think it’ll be that easy. I think regulators are working on a GMO distinction for plants with genes edited only from within the same species like this would be, maybe an easier certification process before selling fruit
anyway I think this is where there’s a lot of promise for home growers once the tools get a couple notches cheaper, maybe ten years from now?
You say that GMO is a spectrum and that them deleting genes and replacing within its own kind is not genetically modifying. Thats not correct. Once they use something like CRISPR, they are genetically modifying it. Granted its not like round up ready soybeans or getting spider web material from goat milk, but editing, deleting and replacing genes is still genetically modifying a peach.
There will be push back from many growers that do not want GMO plants, and inevitably, once they produce a peach from such a program, it will be patented and replication will be strictly controlled and royalties paid.