Suggested Nectarine Varieties for Alabama

Arlie A. Powell, Horticulturist - Fruits, Auburn University

Tree fruit producers in Alabama have expressed an increasing interest in producing more nectarines for roadside retail and wholesaling. The list below provides information on some of the more promising selections for commercial, local and home use. Some of these have been in grower's orchards for several years while others have received limited testing or have just been introduced. Therefore these varieties are suggested for trial plantings to allow growers an opportunity to determine those best suited to their particular location. Growers must pay special attention to controlling brown rot on nectarines. As a group, nectarines tend to be more prone to fruit rots than peaches.

Crimson Gold and Fantasia appear to be quite low chilling but have reportedly proven productive in more northern production areas. Flavortop freezes out too easy and should not be planted in North Alabama, and if used in Central Alabama should only be planted in warmest (most protected) locations. Of all the selections, Red Gold has been grown the longest and is a good variety for northern and central production areas and has performed well in some southern counties. Durbin has performed reasonably well in Central Alabama but will usually have difficulty with cropping (freeze problems) in northern counties. Experience of commercial producers in northern counties in the state indicates Crimson Gold, Summer Beaut, SunGlo and Red Gold have fruited well under severe freeze conditions and produced high quality fruit. A number of producers have reported serious problems in controlling brown rot on fruit of Crimson Gold in some years. Plant patents have expired on all of these selections except Summer Beaut.

A number of nectarine varieties have been tested in South Alabama but very few are being grown commercially. Armking is the leading variety but is rapidly losing popularity because of lack of overall fruit quality. Karla Rose (white flesh) produces fruits of excellent quality for home or local use but has severe problems with bacterial spot and fruit splitting some years. Several Florida varieties released in past years only have a chilling requirement of only 400 to 450 hours below 45oF and may have potential but will probably have limited value because of early flowering. Sunlite fruits lack overall quality and combined with early flowering largely relegate this selection to limited home use in the southern most areas. Sundollar is worthy of trial but will probably flower too early. Among available varieties the most promising selections for southern counties are: Crimson Gold, Carolina Red, Juneglo, Sunfre, Durbin, Summer Beaut, Sunglo, Fantasia and Red Gold. Mayfire is the earliest nectarine available, but fruits are generally of fair quality at best.

In addition to the varieties listed below there are probably a dozen or more personal selections being grown by individual growers in the state, some of which are performing well. Trees of these are generally not available to the public.

Table 1. Suggested Nectarine Varieties for Commercial Trial Plantings In Alabama(a)

Variety Days Before Elberta(c) Hardiness Rating(d) Chill Req.(e) Area Adapted(f) Market Value(g) Pit(h)
Mayfire 3 2.0? 650 S,C C C
Sundollar 60 1.5* 400 S C C
Sunlite 55 1.5? 450 S Local C
Sunsplash 54 1.5? 450 S C? C
Sungem 54 1.5? 425 S Local C
Armking 49 2.0 550 S,C C C
Crimson Gold 42 4.0* 450 A C SF
Carolina Red(b) 39 2.5+* 750 A C SF
JuneGlo 38 2.5* 700 S,C C SF
Sunfre 35 1.5? 525 S,C C SF
Karla Rose 34 1.5? 650 S,C Local SF
Durbin 30 2.0 800 S,C C SF
Earliscarlet 28 2.0* 850 A C SF
Summer Beaut(b) 27 4.0* 800 A C F
Hardired 24 4.5* 850* A C F
Rose Princess 21 2.0* 850 A Local F
SunGlo 19 4.0* 850* A C F
Flavortop 14 1.5 850 S,C C F
Fantasia 7 2.5* 600 A C F
RedGold 5 4.0 850 A C F

(a) All varieties have yellow flesh except Rose Princess and Karla Rose which are white.

(b) These are patented varieties - patent is either owned by Stark Bros. Nursery or company owning patent has assigned propagation rights to them. Patents have expired on a number of varieties including Redgold, Sunglo and Crimson Gold.

(c) Elberta usually ripens early July in South Alabama, mid July in Central Alabama and late July in North Alabama.

(d) Cold hardiness rating - 0 to 5 with 5 being most cold hardy. Those with a 3.0 or higher rating are considered cold hardy enough for North Alabama, while those with 1.5 or higher are needed for South Ala. (e) Refers to hours at or below 45oF needed to satisfy rest (cold requirement) of variety.

(f) Area in state where varieties are best adapted. Entire state (A), north (N), central (C) and South (S). Varieties with chilling requirements higher than 700 should not be planted in southern 2/3 of Mobile, Baldwin and Houston counties.

(g) Market value of some of these varieties has not been determined. C = should have good commercial (shipping) value as well as local use; Local = probably better for local retailing or short hauling (one hour or less).

(h) Refers to freeness of stone, ie., C = cling, SF = semi-freestone, F = freestone.

* Estimated

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