University of Florida scientists investigate flood-proof peaches

Source: Fresh Plaza

Growers and University of Florida scientists are always concerned about flooding, as this can damage peach trees permanently and cause them to die. For instance: as a result of Hurricane Irma in 2017, a few hundred acres of Florida peaches were lost due to flooding.

Flooding poses an issue for all crops, not just peaches. Beyond Florida, 20 million acres of farmland suffered losses nationwide due to floods in 2019. According to Ali Sarkhosh, a UF/IFAS assistant professor of horticultural sciences, studies show that floods will increase as climate change continues to challenge growers around the globe.

Dr. Sarkhosh: “If peach farmers experience flooding, the fruit size and quality can be adversely affected, and the tree may prematurely drop fruit yield. We’re searching for flooding tolerance for peaches before a storm wipes out any farms.”

Now, new research from Dr. Sarkhosh and one of his doctoral students shows three peach rootstocks that can survive flooding. That is crucial for American farmers. Nationwide, growers produce about 93,000 acres, about 2,000 of that in Florida.

In an UF/IFAS-led study conducted in Gainesville, researchers tested six peach rootstocks to see whether they would survive flooding. Researchers measured variables like photosynthesis, nutrient content and activity of the rootstock’s antioxidant system.

As reported on¸ other rootstocks in the study were ‘Guardian’ and ‘Nemaguard,’ which are important for peach production in the southeastern United States. Both ‘Guardian’ and ‘Nemaguard’ resist production challenges like certain nematodes and peach tree short life – the sudden collapse and death of young trees.