COLLEGE STATION — If ever there was a peachy idea for a New Year’s resolution, this is it: plant one of the new varieties of peach or nectarine trees developed specifically for Texas.
In January, 14 new varieties will be available at more than 30 garden centers in Midland, Odessa, Lubbock and the Dallas-Fort Worth, Houston and Austin-San Antonio areas, according to Dr. David Byrne, Texas A&M AgriLife Research peach breeder in College Station.
“The new trees include a cornucopia of cultivars, from very low chill to medium chill types, peaches and nectarines,” Byrne said, “and flat or donut peaches as well as white and yellow flesh and acid and sub-acid flavors.”
Chill requirements can be a factor for whether a tree is able to grow and produce fruit in much of Texas where the winters are mild.
Peach trees have to go through a dormancy brought on by chilling hours in order to produce fruit, Monte Nesbitt, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service horticulturist in College Station, explained at the recent Texas Fruit Conference in Bryan. Trees that have not had enough chilling hours starting in October or November will make less fruit or fruit that is of poor quality.
This need is measured as chilling hours generally as hours of temperature less than 45 degrees, Byrne noted.
“Variety selection is important, so if possible, plant trees that have a diversity of chilling hours to include the years above and below the average chilling hours for your area,” Nesbitt said.
A chart showing the typical chilling hours accumulated across Texas can be found at https://agrilifetoday.tamu.edu/wp-content/uploads/2013/12/peaches.pdf.
Byrne’s stone fruit breeding program has successfully developed peach and nectarine varieties to fit a range of climate zones across Texas, from needing as few as 150 hours of chilling – adapted as far south as the Rio Grande Valley – to as many as 600 hours for more northern areas.
Additionally, the new varieties offer a range of taste and harvest periods to fit specific desires, he said.
“A low acid peach is the typical peach preferred in Asia. As the acidity is lower, it tastes sweeter than a normal acid peach,” Byrne noted.
These are the peaches and nectarines, and their descriptions, that will be available for home gardens in January:
Flat Delight One – a white flesh, low acid, donut-shaped peach. Yields in mid-May. Needs 550 chill hours.
Flat Delight Two – a yellow flesh, very sweet and low acid, donut-shaped peach. Yields in late-May. Needs 550 chill hours.
White Delight Two – low acid, white flesh, semi-freestone peach. Yields in mid-June. Needs 500 chill hours.
Royal Zest Three – yellow flesh, semi-freestone, tangy-sweet peach. Yields in mid-June. Needs 550 chill hours.
White Zest One – semi-freestone, tangy-sweet peach. Yields in mid June. Needs 550 chill hours.
TexPrince – a tangy-sweet, yellow flesh, freestone peach. Yields in late May. Needs 550 chill hours.
TexKing – a yellow flesh, clingstone, tangy-sweet peach. Yields in mid to late May. Needs 450 chill hours.
Tropic Zest Four – yellow flesh, tangy-sweet peach. Yields in early June. Needs 150 chill hours.
TexFirst – yellow flesh peach. Yields late April to early May. Needs 150 chill hours.
Smooth Texan Two – a tangy-sweet nectarine. Yields late May. Needs 550 chill hours.
Smooth Texan Three – a low acid nectarine. Yields in early June. Needs 600 chill hours.
Smooth Delight Two – a low acid, yellow flesh nectarine. Yields in mid May. Needs 400 chill hours.
Smooth Zest One – a tangy-sweet, white-flesh nectarine. Yields in early to mid May. Needs 250 chill hours.
Smooth Zest Two – an acidic, yellow flesh nectarine. Yields early to mid May. Needs 250 chill hours.
The trees are being grown by Tree Town USA, a Texas-based wholesale grower that grows over 1 million fruit, flowering and shade trees annually. The trees will be fully established in 5-gallon containers. To find a business that will be selling these new varieties, please check http://www.treetownusa.com/.