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Thomas G. Beckman, Philip A. Rollins, James Pitts, Dario J. Chavez and Jose X. Chaparro

The primary focus of the stone fruit rootstock program at Byron, GA, has been the development of disease-resistant rootstocks for peach (Prunus persica L. Batsch). Historically peach tree short life (PTSL), aka bacterial canker complex, and Armillaria root rot (ARR) have been the two most important causes of premature mortality of commercial peach trees in the southeastern United States. Guardian®, a seedling peach rootstock, was cooperatively released in 1993 by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)-Agricultural Research Service (ARS) and Clemson University. It has since been widely adopted by the southeastern peach industry. As a result, trees losses to PTSL have declined sharply. However, Guardian, like most other peach seedling rootstocks, is susceptible to ARR. ARR has now moved to the forefront as the primary cause of premature peach tree death in the Southeast. In response to this threat, the USDA-ARS in cooperation with the University of Florida, released ‘Sharpe’, a plum hybrid rootstock in 2007. Despite its broad disease resistance, ‘Sharpe’ proved unsuited for widespread commercial utilization due to its relatively poor cropping performance. In 2011, ‘MP-29’, a semidwarf, clonal, plum × peach hybrid, was released for commercial trial. ‘MP-29’s broad disease and nematode resistance, in combination with its dwarfing ability and excellent productivity, offered great promise for use in this production area and in others suffering from similar issues. Since its release, testing of ‘MP-29’ has continued both in researcher and grower trials. To date, performance has exceeded all expectations.