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Overview 1980, Department of Horticultural Science


Horticulture was a small industry in North Carolina in 1880. It had a wholesale production value of about $1,025,000 at that time and much of this was grown for home consumption. Modest progress was made up to World War I but then the two wars and the depression between them raised havoc with the industry (see Fig. 1). After World War II a new era of dynamic growth began and continues today.

Experimentation of refrigerated transport of fresh produce began along about the 1850's. In 1854 the steamer Roanoke transported the first shipment of vegetables from Norfolk, Virginia to New York City. Development of the fresh produce transportation industry waited until the advent of refrigerated rail shipment. This came about in the 1880's. The first rail shipment of vegetables to New York City from Norfolk, Virginia was in 1885, from North Carolina in 1887, and from Charleston, South Carolina in 1888.

Professor Massey was the first horticulturist and was hired in 1889. The first emphasis he placed on a research program was variety trials of fruits and vegetables to identify those best suited to shipment to the northern markets. Professor Massey's foresight as well placed because beginning about 1900 a rapid development of rail shipment of vegetables and fruit began. This enabled North Carolina to emerge as an important horticultural production area along with some other states in the South and in the West.

Very modest manpower existed in horticulture between 1889 and the end of World War II. There were only 3 people in the horticulture area in 1920 and these shared the teaching, research, and extension responsibilities. At he end of World War II there were a total of 89 horticulturists. It is interesting to note that the investment in manpower shortly precedes the growth curve of the horticulture industry a hole in N.C. This is true of commodity area curves as well.

Following 1945 the expansion in horticultural scientists, the development of truck transportation, and the general improvement of the economy teamed up to usher in the current expansive era we are enjoying.

The $217 million value of commercial horticulture and $150 million value of home gardens in 1975 is impressive but the hidden values were even greater. Forty percent of the food consumption of Americans comes from horticultural products. An even greater percentage of the minerals and vitamins of Americans is derived from horticultural products. In this age of urbanization and mechanization mans realization of his dependence on nature is becoming even more acute. One cannot determine the emotional value of greenways parks, city plantings, home gardens, and interior plantings. The intimate involvement of landscaping in all development is becoming more a necessity than a luxury in terms of the mental well-being of man. Again no value has been placed on this current endeavor of Horticultural Science.

The remainder of the story of Horticultural research begins in the time period between the two world wars. It is divided into 4 commodity areas, flower crops, nursery crops, fruits, and vegetables as well a one cross commodity tropic "New and Improved Varieties." This latter section is important because of the early endeavors and a significant portion of current efforts in this department were in the area of plant breeding.

Floral Crops

Floriculture had a modest beginning near the time of the initiation of the N. C. Agricultural Experiment Station. There were 16 flower growers in operation in 1890 with a combined greenhouse area of 28,000 sq. ft. The wholesale value of their crop in that year was $111,000. The accompanying graph shows the production area and dollar value growth over the past century along with the scientific manpower given over to floriculture. It is very significant that the growth curves follow the manpower curve. A number of scientific breakthroughs occurred beginning about 12948. Some of these were pioneered by the N. C. College of Agriculture faculty and others were adopted and fostered by our faculty. In any event the successful incorporation of these into N. C. floriculture was due in great measure to the activities of the floriculture faculty.

It should be noted that research, extension and teaching assignments were combined in varying degrees among these faculty. It is very difficult to separate the research efforts from extension and teaching efforts for the purpose of assessing individual effects upon the industry. Nevertheless we shall take a look at the sequence of research endeavors which so greatly accounted for the phenomenal growth of floriculture since the late 1940's.

About 1948 the photoperiodic manipulation of floral crops to time their flowering and to flower them out of season came into being. This scientific breakthrough was fostered in North Carolina. Patterson's Greenhouses in Shelby were one of the first ranges in the nation to adopt this technique that ultimately led to the establishment of the chrysanthemum as the leading cut flower in the United States and the world.

In the 1950's, an expansive period in the development of applicable research, mist propagation was highly refined and adapted by our scientists. North Carolina florists and nurserymen alike adapted the system greatly reducing their cutting losses during propagation. This was a great force in enhancing further growth of both industries.

Disease prevention at that time was labor intensive, a factor that could stand up to competition. The development of soil fungicidal drenches and steam as well as chemical pasteurization of soil solved this problem. Although these techniques were not developed in North Carolina, it was our scientists who seized upon these techniques and refined them for the industry.

In 1957 Gartner and McIntyre, NCSU, published an article pertaining to their research on day-length control to better manipulate the flowering of the poinsettia. This research was instrumental in improving the timing of poinsettia flowering, resulting in higher quality poinsettias for the consumer.

Excessive height of potted plants has been a problem with commercial flower growers as they have followed cultural procedures that result in vigorous, healthy plants. Researchers at NCSU have been leaders in research on the use of chemical growth regulators to control height of poinsettias, potted chrysanthemums, hydrangeas, Easter lilies and bedding plants. These growth regulators have enabled the growers to continue to follow optimum cultural practices and yet produce plants of an acceptable size.

Research efforts in the 1960s were intensified and a higher degree of pioneering work was undertaken. The azalea traditionally was only available as a flowering potted plant from late autumn to late spring. The NCSU research studies that were conducted on environmental control of azalea flowering proved that high-quality flowering azalea points could be available throughout the year. The high cost of azalea production has prevented greater realization of benefits from this program but new cultural practices make the program more economically feasible.

The feasibility of using nature by-products for root media in the nursery and greenhouse had been demonstrated but it was our scientists who developed systems for using pine bark which led to North Carolina as the first state to use such media on a major scale. The economic benefits from using this highly effective and inexpensive substitute have further contributed to the profitability of our industry.

In the early 1960's Lunt and Kofranek at the University of California at Los Angeles reported the results of their investigations with encapsulated fertilizers. The research was expanded upon by researchers in the Department of Horticultural Science at North Carolina State University and this later research did much to make slow-release fertilizer commercially practical. Almost every flower grower in the United States today uses slow-release fertilizer in some part of the crop nutritional program. Our floricultural nutrition program as a whole is one of the most extensive in the nation. In addition to delving into specific problems of the North Carolina industry such as ammonium toxicity, copper deficiency, etc. we have been a leader in the development of fertilization programs and foliar analysis systems for monitoring crop nutrition.

The Phytotron at NCSU has enabled faculty to be in the forefront in environmental investigations. Poinsettia research conducted in the NCSU Phytotron produced temperature guidelines now followed by growers throughout the world. Other meaningful studies have been conducted on geraniums, azaleas, bedding plants, chrysanthemums, hydrangeas, gloxinias, and Easter lilies.

Research in the 1970's is commanded a much better control on the future of the floriculture industry. Considerably more interdepartmental research was underway. Studies were being made in conserving heat in the greenhouse and in developing solar assisted heating systems. Extensive progress has been made on bringing in potentially new crops and in developing commercial systems of culture for these.

The Future

The future of floriculture is extremely optimistic and even more so in North Carolina. Tradition ally we have marketed to the upper 20% of American wage earners. Fifteen years ago a movement to market to all people had its rocky beginnings. Its progress was hardly perceptible at first but now it is a formidable force that will not be stopped. In 1958 retail value of floriculture in the United States was $905 million, in 1967 $1.75 billion and in 1976 was anticipated to be $3.65 billion. The wholesale value of production today in the United States is $900 million while in 8 countries of Western Europe it is $2.25 billion (2 1/2 times larger). There, a well-developed mass market exists. There is no question the U. S. volume of production can quadruple in the next 2 decades. The question remains as to where the growth will take place.

North Carolina can gain a lion's share of business. The formerly large production areas located in northern states are suffering from a declining rate of growth. Factors including the disproportionate role of fuel in total expenses, land use policies, and industrial competition will continue for some time to give North Carolina a competitive advantage over the former strongholds of northern states in this industry, North Carolina is fortunate to be located far enough north to be able to take advantage of controlled environment culture where insects and disease can be controlled. It is also in a very favorable geographical position relative to major markets in the United States being located within 500 miles of such centers as Atlanta, Washington, Philadelphia, Baltimore and New York.

With continued strong support, the $23.8 million floriculture industry in North Carolina could quadruple by the turn of this century.

Future research emphasis must be placed on the following areas:

  1. Feasibility studies to determine which crops we can grow profitably under conditions of a saturated market that is certain to come one day. It is important that we identify and establish ourselves in these crop areas before competitive regions do so.
  2. Introduction of new pot plant crops to service our rapidly growing mass-market demand.
  3. Development of shorter cultural programs for some of our pot plant crops in order to extend the range of prices asked in the new marketplaces thereby increasing the range of American customers.
  4. New systems for growing fast crop cut flowers that are better suited to short stem, mixed bouquets. This approach along with the establishment of new greenhouse cut flower crops including garden type flowers should provide a product that can open up mass market sales to cut flowers. Currently cut flowers constitute a no-growth industry in the United States. The major problem is that current cut flower production and packaging dos not lend itself to mass marketing.
  5. Alternative sources of energy for heating and greater conservation of energy through the use of radiant energy reflective plastic films and other helpful systems.
  6. Research is needed in the area of post harvest handling including packaging, preservatives, in hyperbaric storage, keeping quality in the market distribution channel, and acclimatization similar to consumer environments.

The future is bright in North Carolina floriculture if we continue to provide the technological support. The 3% of American production that comes from North Carolina is an ominous reminder that complacency could easily lead to obliteration of our industry. On the other hand a 3% piece of the market tells us even more strongly that we have an incredible growth potential. Testimony to this is our present strong growth rate, the advantageous conditions which exist in North Carolina for a massive floriculture industry, and the human technological resources at hand in North Carolina.

Nursery Crops

Production of nursery crops was well established in North Carolina in the 1800's and has shown continued growth to the present.

Since 1950, a growth of 200% has occurred in the industry when inflation rates are considered. Today there are 1,700 registered growers producing a wide range of crops. North Carolina has a wide range of climatic conditions, making possible production of many kinds of landscape plants. The eastern part of the state is suited for production of containerized southern plants such as azaleas, camellias, and hollies; the Piedmont for production of a variety of field and container stock; and the mountains for conifers, rhododendrons sand native plants. Labor, water and raw materials are adequate for expansion of the nursery crops industry and it is favorably located in relation to the population of urban areas from Atlanta to New York as ready markets.

The greatest problem facing the nursery industry of the state concerns its historical development. The industry is made up of many small part-time producers or large producers have evolved from such a condition. In general, most lack an appreciation of technical methods, recent innovations and are poorly equipped for business and economic aspects of production and sales. They often have poor production efficiency, are uncertain about products to grow, where and how to market. These characteristics are true for the United States nursery industry as a whole but North Carolina growers are considerably below levels of competing states.

Adequate technology exists for effective production. Nationally, major changes have occurred in the past decad3e and include controlled environment propagation, container culture, liquid feed and slow-release nutrition, synthetic media, better weed control, mechanization in soil mixing, potting and digging, cold storage facilities and improved transportation, However, information is scattered and not in a form for ready utilization. County extension personnel are often untrained in nursery technology and there is often difficulty in getting nursery growers to accept changes in production or introduction of new products.

North Carolina State University - Nursery Background

Although a few sporadic scattered tests on nursery materials occur in the early history at NCSU, a research program was not initiated until the appointment of E. L. McElwee in 1950. From 1979-1973, one to three people were involved at any given time in nursery work. The major result of these programs has been refinement of intermittent mist propagation, new chemical weed control methods and development and release of cold and heat tolerant azalea cultivars. Through extension contact and publications, technological changes from throughout the United States have been communicated to the industry resulting in slow evolutionary changes,

Personnel retirements, moves and creation of new positions has resulted in a new beginning team of 6 people for expansion and creation of new programs beginning in spring 1977. Active interest and development of nursery research programs in the cooperating departments of Agricultural Engineering, Forestry, Plant Pathology, Entomology, Landscape Architecture and the United States Department of Agriculture is giving expanded breadth and depth to the area of nursery crops research.

The Future

Traditionally the area of nursery crops has been the slowest of horticultural fields to innovate and adopt available technology. The nursery industry has been called "the last phase of American agriculture left in 19tth century production." Nationally this is changing with the realization by corporate conglomerates of the technology. The recent acquisition of Hines Nursery (a California firm – the best, and one of the largest nurseries in the United States) by Weyerhaeuser Corporation symbolizes this change, Nursery production now stands at $2.1 billion with a $6.5 billion landscape contracting industry utilizing the materials produced. Little has been done with advertising, promotion and market development, and sales techniques to expand the industry beyond traditional roles. Progressive industry leaders and nurserymen feel production and potential markets have barely been tapped with a tripling of the industry possible in 10-15 years.

Ten major areas for future potential development include:

  1. Cultivar evaluation. Thousands of cultivars of nursery crops exist yet relatively few are produced in North Carolina. No formal testing of these materials has established adaptability to local conditions. Evaluation throughout the state is needed for nurserymen to select new materials to widen product markets and to develop specialties. Also evaluation of the superb native flora of the state for potential of use under cultivate and landscape conditions is needed. Many of our finest nursery crops are from this source ands many remain to be discovered and developed.
  2. Provenance evaluation. Foresters have recognized for over a hundred years the importance of seed source in adaptability and performance of woody plants. The few investigations that have been conducted with ornamentals verify this importance and much remains to be done. With the development of national nurseries and shipment of plants from a single source to widely varying locations and environmental conditions this takes on added importance.
  3. Improved propagation techniques. Probably the most important limiting factor determining what is produced in North Carolina is the ability of nurserymen to successfully propagate them. Many superb plants are exceedingly difficult or may be handled only by seed thus prohibiting the development of superior uniform cultivars. Three areas within propagation that need work are:
    1. Propagation of native plants. Information of dormancy and germination techniques for most native woody species is lacking. Many are rare or produce very little seed. Vegetative means of reproducing these would allow wider use and faster production.
    2. Tissue culture. Large scale rapid multiplication of plant tissue culture is one of the major transformations in horticulture in the past decade. Woody plant materials thus far have not successfully been reproduced by this ,method and further work is desirable and promising.
    3. Accelerated growth propagation. With florist crops and forestry seedlings use of completely controlled environmental chambers with temperature, photoperiod, light intensity, CO2, water and nutrient control have produced seedling plants in one-fifth normal time and these techniques have moved into commercial production. Such techniques are badly needed in the nursery industry.
  4. Media changes. Container production continues to increase in percentage of production compared to field (ground bed) production. Nationally a change has occurred from use of soil as a growing medium to mixes comprised of various synthetic and organic components. Recent price changes have altered acceptability of peat as a medium component. Softwood bark residues are currently being used by many growers but further work on particle sizes and macro-and minor-element fertilization programs for these mixes are needed. In addition, much research is needed on techniques for successful utilization of hardwood bark residues that have unique difficulties and remains relatively unused in the industry.
  5. Irrigation modifications. Although North Carolina has a better than average rainfall distribution patterns and ample groundwater supplies, few nurserymen in field production now utilize irrigation and depend on natural supplies. Work on yield responses of field crops is needed to demonstrate potential benefits. Study of new systems such as trickle and drip irrigation are needed to provide recommendations for use of these important water conservation techniques under North Carolina systems. These techniques also have great potential for use in commercial and residential landscape situations.
  6. Weed control techniques. The single greatest unsolved problem in container production is adequate chemical weed control. The variety of crop species, production systems and weed damage make this area the most difficult of all weed control problems. Although some success has been achieved in the past five years, enormous amounts of information are still badly needed.
  7. Growth regulants. M Much potential exists for use of chemicals to manipulate the growth patterns of valuable woody plant species in intense production systems. Use has been made of hormones for rooting of cuttings but further work is needed on materials to cause "pinching or shearing," lateral bud development for better plant structure, and regulants to reduce excess growth in landscape plants for improved maintenance.
  8. Marketing. Nurserymen have depended on standardized plants in traditional markets. More plants are "bought" in the nursery industry than are "promoted and sold." Major needs in this area include:
    1. New products. Herbaceous baskets have become a major product in a short time, but few have attempted use of woody perennials for year-round use although the technique although the technique is used in California by specialists. Turf is now sold as sod rather than plugs for instant landscape effect. Ground covers have potential to be produced this way and good markets exist. Traditional markets have dealt with finished" specimen plants—potentials exist for liner or small plant sales for peopled to "grow-their-own."
    2. New markets. Most products today go to landscape contractors for commercial landscaping or for new suburban home construction. Pre-packaged smaller and less expensive plants for apartment balconies, low-income housing and trailer house use need to be developed. These could take the form of kits with landscape plans or information sheets.
    3. Retail handling. High losses in shipping and sales now occur, particularly with container plants. Much need exists for information on packaging techniques, factors affecting moisture loss and critical plant moisture levels.
    4. Sources and supplies. A major blockage to sales is poor communication between plant producers and the landscape architect-landscape contractor-retail garden center industries. Finding sources of need materials is a major problem. New tools for communication should be developed.
  9. Economic data. Nursery crops are the "last commodity remaining in which market price has no relationship to cost of production." Few nurserymen have any idea what production cost for any given item is and pricing is arbitrary at best. Much need exists for methods to consider alternate production systems and realistic pricing mechanisms. Also statistics are needed on size of the industry and quantities of individual crops being grown.
  10. Installation and aftercare. There has been little communication or concern between plant producers and plant consumers; and the systems that will allow best production of a crop (e.g. – lightweight porous soil mixes) may also be least favorable for survival of those crops when planted in the landscape. Little experimental data is available correct techniques of landscape. Little experimental data is available on correct techniques of landscape plant care. Recent research has indicated our traditional concepts of planting techniques, staking, pruning, and watering may all be incorrect. Millions of dollars of landscape plants die annually and much need exists ion this area.

Fruit Crops

  1. Grapes. Muscadine grapes (Vitus rotundifolia Michx.) are native to North Carolina and southeastern United States. Interest in commercial production developed around the turn of the century. The fruit cultivars were selections from the wild, functional females that required pollination from male vines. In the early 1900's both USDA and NCSU scientists began research programs. Their accomplishments are as follows:
    1. In the early 1920's and 1930's, both Mr. Dearing (USDA) and Detjen (NCSU) found perfect-flowered vines. These vines were used to develop perfect-flowered "pollinators" that could be planted in vineyards to pollinate female cultivars as well as produce fruit themselves.
    2. In 1948 Mr. Dearing released 15 cultivars. Four of these were perfect-flowered.
    3. From 1945 to 1962 Professor C. F. Williams directed the grape breeding program. His goal was to develop perfect-flowered cultivars with fruiting characteristics equal to those of the earlier female cultivars. In 1962 he released 5 cultivars 'Albemarle', 'Pamlico', 'Roanoke', 'Chowan', and 'Magnolia'.
    4. In the late 1950's and 1960's, the grape industry expressed a need for cultivars suited for wine production. The buyers offered relatively high prices for wine grapes and expressed a preference for the old 'Scuppernong' cultivar. The cultivar required cross-pollination, was inconsistent in yield, and ripened unevenly
    5. In the late 1960's and early 1970's the existing cultivars plus selections in the breeding program were evaluated by NCSU scientists for wine production. One of the cultivars, 'Magnolia', released by Professor Williams was found to process into good wine. It presently comprises about 25% of the production of wine grapes in North Carolina.
    6. With this increase in potential production, the old cultural training systems were inadequate. The standard 8-arm overhead training system was the most productive but made cultivation, spraying, and harvesting with machinery difficult. Therefore, the Geneva-Double-Curtain and Single-Curtain systems were tested, adapted, and recommended to the growers.
    7. 'Carlos', a new cultivar that is high-yielding and from which a good quality wine can be made., was released in 1970. It is well adapted to North Carolina's growing conditions and can be mechanically harvested. The picking characteristics of 'Carlos' make it unique among muscadine grape cultivars. It's fruit remain on the vine until ripe or over-ripe. When harvested, about 90% of the berries have dry stem scars. This reduces post-harvest fruit rot and incipient fermentation. It's berries can be removed from the vine with relatively little force (100-150 gm pull force vs. 450-600 gm for 'Magnolia' berries) when ripe. 'Carlos' also has good dessert quality. The dry stem scar makes it desirable for fresh marketing and shipping.
    8. Up to 1970, practically all V. rotundifolia wines were made from cultivars with bronze grapes. In the late 1960's and early 1970's, the existing cultivars and breeding-program selections were screened for their potential for red wine, unfermented juice, and jelly. A new cultivar, 'Noble', was released as a result of this study. Fruits of 'Noble' process well into good wine, unfermented juice, or jelly. It is self-fruitful, high yielding, and adapted to growing conditions in North Carolina. Four other black-fruited selections are being tested further as possible cultivars. One of these, NC 153-1, shows promise.
    9. Research that has accelerated the breeding program includes development of a laboratory technique for screening for potential wine color. The anthocyanins (Acy) in black grape hulls were extracted, separated, purified and identified using paper and TLC Chromatography. Densitometric measurements of qualities of each of the ACY were correlated with color scored of wines developed by the enologist's evaluation panel. One of the ACY present in small quantities, malvidin-3-5-diglucoside, was highly correlated with good wine color. Now, only one berry from a 1 or 2 year old vine can be screened to determine potential wine color. Heretofore, a vine had to be grown 3 to 5 years before sufficient berries were available from which wine could be made and judged for color. Presently, the inheritance of malvidin-3,5-diglucoside is being studied using the laboratory techniques described above.
    10. Research on cultural aspects includes: a) weed control programs that virtually eliminate cultivation in vineyards; b) growth regulators that induce clean- and uniform-harvesting of cultivars whose berries are otherwise difficult to remove from the vine without serious damage to the fruit; c) fertilization, irrigation, and vine size are now being studied. The results from these studies are already being incorporated into fertilizer recommendations
  2. Blueberries. The history of blueberries in North Carolina can be seen in accompanying figures. Started in 1928 by growers from New Jersey using cultivars imported from New Jersey.
    1. In the1930's production was adapted to North Carolina conditions through efforts of Professor Emmett Morrow (NCSU) working with growers. Devised planting, pruning, fertilizing, spraying, cultivation, harvesting, packaging, and marketing systems.
    2. Around 1950, Professor Morrow (NCSU) and Dr. George Darrow (USDA) released 4 cultivars resistant to stem canker that was devastating imported northern cultivars. One of these cultivars, 'Wolcott' by 1965 comprised 70% of blueberry acreage in North Carolina. The industry thrived and increased to about 5,000 acres.
    3. Around 1965, Dr. Mulholland (Plant Pathology) discovered that the stem canker disease had mutated into 6 virulent strains. Today the industry is in the same situation in which it found itself in the late 1940's.
    4. Dr. G. J. Galletta and the USDA cooperating released the cultivar 'Morrow' around 1965 and 'Harrison' around 1975. These are resistant to some of the strains of stem canker. Release of other canker-resistant cultivars in the new future hopefully will provide a second stimulus for rapid expansion of the industry
    5. Other pertinent research within the past 20 years:
      1. Kushman, Manessm and Ballinger
        1. System for rapid forced-air cooling of blueberries.
        2. Determination of optimum harvest-interval for quality fruit.
        3. Determination of influence of crop load and fruit/leaf ratio upon ripening and quality.
        4. Relationship of fruit acids and sugars to keeping quality (see De. Galletta.
        5. Technique for light-sorting according to ripeness.
        6. Helped Dr. Galletta screen Vaccinium species (collection from throughout eastern United States) for fruit quality (increase germplasm base for breeding program).
        7. Relationship of bruising to decay/shelf-life of blueberries.
      2. Dr. Mainland
        1. Bush training studies.
        2. Ethephon applications for concentrated ripening.
        3. Relationship of low winter temperature to productivity the following season.
        4. Rooting of cuttings.
        5. Fertilizing cuttings in cutting beds.
        6. Weather research to provide insight into such problems as lack of bloom, pollination and disease and insect incidence.
      3. Dr. Galletta
        1. Made a collection of species from throughout the eastern United States from Main to Wisconsin to Arkansas, to Florida and areas in between. This collection offers a broad germ base for blueberry breeders throughout the country to use in the development of new cultivars with more desirable horticultural qualities and resistance to pests.
        2. Seed germination studies using growth regulators.
        3. Techniques and cultivars to expand blueberry production into the mountains of North Carolina.
  3. Strawberries. Some of the most significant research accomplishments have been:
    1. Development of cultivars adapted to North Carolina conditions. Some of these cultivars include 'Blakemore', 'Massey', 'Albritton', 'Atlas', 'Apollo', and 'Earlibelle'. Although many of the varieties developed were "tailored" to North Carolina conditions, they have become nationally important and are used extensively all over the country as parents as well as for commercial production. The development of these varieties has helped North Carolina remain the leading strawberry production state east of the Mississippi River.
    2. Weed control research. In the past decade systematic, effective weed control program has been formulated. This has taken much of the risk from growing the crop, has dramatically increased yields and lowered labor costs and requirements.
    3. Pest control systems (weed, insect, disease) have been demonstrated that allow grow incomes of $5,000 or greater per acre from strawberries.
  4. Apples. Prior to the 1920's, apples in North Carolina were mainly grown in many
    1. "home" orchards which included many cultivars and few trees each. These apples were consumed at "home" and marketed locally. Transportation systems other than rail were poor or non-existent. Commercial orchards began to develop in the early 1920's and 1930's. Extension workers promoted this new commercial industry via demonstration research on cost production, pruning practices, soil management, spraying, and fertilizing. Quality was poor; few tractors were used; spray and packing house equipment were primitive. Insects such as the codling moth were rampant. Apple scab and other diseases added to the deterioration of fruit quality.
    2. During the 1940's and 1950's, industry developed organic and other pesticides that were effective against insects and diseases. They were more "gentle" to apple finish and quality. Tractors replaced mules. Air-blast sprayers were developed. Modern packinghouse equipment was introduced. The whole marketing system of fresh produce in the United States was revolutionized by the development of an efficient, speedy refrigerated truck transportation system.
    3. In the early 1950's high-coloring apple strains which allowed good quality development at our southerly latitude were introduced. The introductions allowed North Carolina to take advantage of our early season environment and be the first to begin commercial harvesting each season. Because of the economic advantage of first commercial harvest in the nation, North Carolina's apple industry has enjoyed a favorite position in apple marketing.
    4. Also during the 1950's, Endrin was developed for control of mouse damage to apple trees. Extension personnel guided growers on visits to other apple producing states and Australia to see how other growers produced apples. In 1960 the first apple processing plant was established in western North Carolina. Several others have been established here since that time. In the mid-1960's research on chemical weed control was begun. Leaf analysis was researched and made available to the growers. Because of this, most orchards today receive B and Ca sprays to reduce incidence of cork spot and bitter pit of the apples. Fertilizer recommendations are made using results of both leaf and soil analyses.
    5. Major apple research involvement by Horticultural Science began in the 1960's and 1970's. Recently, determination of the iron-manganese involvement in the occurrence and correction of internal bark necrosis has provided a better understanding of this persistent problem. The development of commercial ethephon-use recommendations for improving color and maturity has implications for improving and stabilizing harvested fruit quality and improving North Carolina's apple image in the national marketplace. These Horticultural Science research projects involve the use of elaborate equipment in the laboratory, refrigerated storage facilities, and trees and fruit in commercial orchards and experiment stations. Results from this research will be reflected in the additional growth of the North Carolina apple industry in the next 10 to 15 years. The demand for apples early in the marketing season is there. North Carolina only need provide high-quality apples to satisfy that demand.
  5. Peaches
    1. The North Carolina peach industry became a national leader as a result of a combined influence of our early season and environmental conditions and the development of several new varieties which provided a continuous availability of maturing peaches from early summer through late fall. N. C. State University scientists in the departments of Horticulture and Plant Pathology have contributed immensely to the preservation of the peach industry in the state and are responsible for the present stability of the peach industry in the southeast. Horticultural and plant pathology scientists have released a series of 12 high quality peach cultivars adapted to North Carolina and the eastern United States, with a high level of bacterial spot resistance. Eight of these cultivars have a non-browning flesh which is an important new facet of peach production introduced because of N. C, State University research. These bacterial spot resistant, non-browning varieties have been picked up by peach producers throughout the nation, and now form a standard for our nation's peach production.
    2. A serious tree survival problem began plaguing the southeastern peach industry in the late 1950's and early1960's. Because of a team effort in the departments of Soil Science, Plant Pathology and Horticulture at N. C. State University, significant contributions have been made in the elucidation of the short tree life problem with peaches. Our scientists played an integral role in the development of a 10-point program which has been instrumental in the successful stabilizing and modest rejuvenation of peach growing in the southeast.


  1. Vegetables have contributed significantly to the overall growth of horticulture in North Carolina. Since 1930 the total value of commercial vegetables has increased from 17 million to in excess of 136 million dollars. In addition, home gardens contributed an estimated 150 million last year bringing the total to more than 286 million dollars. A significant portion of this increase is attributed directly to a well-planned and coordinated research effort on the part of the Department of Horticultural Science and allied departments and the vegetable industry. It is important to be aware that during this period of greatest expansion of vegetable sales from North Carolina there was no shortage of production in other states. The expansion came about as a result of improved packaging, handling and lower unit costs from high yields. This has resulted in the widespread availability of a vast array of high quality, nutritious fresh vegetables for the entire nation at any period of the year.
  2. The role of applied research is emphasized throughout this report; however, it has been undergirded by significant efforts of a basic nature: such as, investigations of intercellular space in sweet potatoes, the roles of growth regulators in cucumber growth, breeding techniques for diploid and tetraploid potatoes, inheritance of resistance to disease organisms.
    1. Sweet Potato
      1. The progress of the sweet potato industry in North Carolina is a classic example of what can result from a coordinated research effort. Major advances have been made by sweet potato researchers at N. C. State University in virtually all phases of sweet potato production. Prior to 1960 the average yield of sweet potatoes varied from 100-150 bu./A with a value of 6-10 million dollars annually. During the past 110-15 years improved varieties an new technology have elevated North Carolina to No. 1 national ranking in sweet potato production with a 1975 value of 43 million dollars.
      2. The variety 'Jewel', released by the Agricultural Experiment Station in 1970, has become the most widely grown variety in the nation in just six years The incorporation of multiple disease resistance in new varieties as well as research diseases and their prevention played a significant part in increased yields.
      3. In 1958 pre-sprouting to increase plant production decrease 'seed' requirements was successfully introduced as a cultural practice in North Carolina.
      4. Technological advances have resulted in increased mechanization of sweet potato production. Mechanical harvesting aids were introduced to cut down on labor requirements and time needed for harvest. A revolutionary packing and grading line developed by experiment station scientists allows sweet potatoes fresh from the field to be washed, sized sorted, graded and packed in one operation drastically educing field labor and simplifying the entire harvesting procedures.
      5. Improved curing and storage techniques and facilities led further advances. Prior to 1950 suitable storage as unavailable in North Carolina with overall capacity of 6 million bushels enabling a year around availability of high quality produce. Some of the major achievements in this area were palletized storage containers with fork handling to reduce injury and labor, trench heating and humidification, overhead ventilation, separate curing and storage rooms, and the clarification of the ideal curing conditions with respect to temperature, humidity and length of the curing period.
      6. The 'blister problem' of 'Jewel' and certain other cultivars has been greatly reduced by the inclusion of boron in the fertilizer program.
      7. The total effect of these research accomplishments has been reduced costs for greater marketable yield for the farmer and high quality product for the consumer.
    2. Pickle Cucumbers
      1. Growth in pickling cucumber acreage has paralleled that of the sweet potato industry. Prior to 1946 there were less than 6,000 acres grown nm the state. Since that time acreage has increased 5-fold and in 1975 was 29,500 with a value of $12 million. Although progress has been made in disease and insect control, as well as in cultural and variety development, the pickling cucumber industry has not enjoyed a major yield breakthrough. Station scientists are presently cooperating with researchers in all areas in an effort to overcome the yield problem. A step in that direction has been the development and release of 4 cultivars – Addis, Calypso, Sampson and Liberty. The latter two varieties are monoecious hybrids and economical commercial seed production was made possible by techniques developed by station researchers. Addis, Calypso and Sampson carry resistance to the major southern diseases and Calypso, like Liberty, is also resistant to scab and mosaic.
      2. Extensive research has been conducted on growth regulators as an aid to increasing yield. Station scientists were the first to report the dramatic effect of 2 chloro-ethylphosphonic acid on sex-expression of cucumbers. This material, plus chlorflurenol gives the potential for controlling sex-expression and increasing yield without the necessity of insect pollinators.
      3. A major effort has been in the development of cultural methods for mechanical harvesting. This thrust has covered field preparation, spatial arrangement and plant population, fertilizer and pesticide application and development of harvest indices.
    3. Potatoes
      1. Potato improvement in the United States has reached a plateau beyond which major improvement has become difficult largely because of inbreeding effects. In the past 10 years 60 introductions of two highland tropic diploids, S. phureja and S. stenotomum, the progenitor species of the cultivated tetraploid of North America, have undergone five cycles of selection for adaptation to the Temperate Zone. The population is now day-neutral in photoperiodic response for tuberization and can be utilized in hybridization with the common potato S. tuberosum. The original collections were selected for disease and insect resistance and for high dry matter. Evaluation of the adapted population has revealed resistance to potato virus X, potato virus Y, late blight, bacterial wilt, root-knot nematode and wart disease. Dry matter content ranges to 30% within the North Carolina population. This represents a 2-3 fold increase over present varieties and potentially is one of the major breakthroughs in potato breeding.
    4. Tomatoes
      1. Tomatoes have contributed significantly to the vegetable industry in North Carolina. Prior to 1957 production of tomatoes in western North Carolina was not possible largely because of foliar diseases. In 1957 the trellised tomato industry was initiated by University scientists and today it represents a 5 to 6 million dollar annual income.
      2. The development and subsequent introduction of Venus and Saturn, the first varieties resistant to bacterial wilt, represents a milestone in tomato research. This work was begun in 1930's and progressed through three teams of plant breeders before success became a reality.
      3. The introduction of plastic films in the fifties and the subsequent investigations by University personnel has in a greenhouse tomato.
      4. Development of cultural systems and securing production contracts have introduced a new industry – tomato production for processing – to North Carolina. Only now in its early beginning this industry may represent the catalyst in production for processing for which we've waited so long.
    5. Future
      1. In spite of the dramatic growth enjoyed by the North Carolina vegetable industry over the last 50 years, it's still in its infancy. The yield barriers that have held production in check in some areas will slowly but surely be broken. We are well armed with promising diverse germplasm that offers great promise for significant increases in yield (5-10X) of pickling cucumbers and dry matter content (2-3X) in potatoes. Other breeding programs are similarly prepared for increasing yield of high quality products.
      2. Utilization of new techniques in all areas of vegetable crop production, from planting to final product sale, will undergird continued increases in yield. Vegetables will play an increasingly important role in the human diet both from the standpoint of per capita consumption and overall nutritional intake. This presents a challenge that we are anxious to undertake and to pursue with vigor.


  1. The development of superior varieties of horticultural crops has been a major research objective for many years. New varieties producing high yields, better fresh and processing qualities and resistances to major pests have been successfully produced.
  2. Cucumbers
    1. The pickling cucumber industry has been one of the most rapidly growing agricultural enterprises in North Carolina. This growth has been matched by rapid mechanization of the harvesting process. Superior new pickling varieties have been developed which are adapted to mechanical harvesting and which possess resistance to the major diseases anthracnose, angular leaf spot, downy mildew, powdery mildew and cucumber mosaic virus. These varieties, all of which were released in 1975 by R. L. Lower, C. H. Miller, E. G. Humphries and S. F. Jenkins, are:
    2. 'Addis' – A monoecious variety with long, dark green fruit. Suitable for multiple harvest.
    3. 'Calypso' – A gynoecious hybrid with dark green, medium fruit. Suitable for either multiple or once-over harvest. This variety is also resistant to scab.
    4. 'Liberty' – An early monoecious variety, suitable for early commercial and home garden production.
    5. 'Sampson' – A monoecious hybrid with dark green, intermediate fruit. Suitable for use with multiple-pick harvester. Lacks crown fruit and yields well over a long period.
  3. Tomato
    1. 'Venus' – 1970.
    2. 'Saturn' - 1970. W. R. Henderson, Dept. of Horticultural Science, 
      S. F. Jenkins, Jr., Dept. of Plant Pathology.
    3. These introductions constituted a milestone in the tomato industry, They were the first cultivars commercially available combining resistance to bacterial wilt with desirable horticultural features
  4. Sweet Potato
    1. Sweet potato economically constitutes the largest horticultural commodity grown in North Carolina. Much of this success stems from our breeding program. Objectives of this program include high yields, excellent quality, and disease resistance. Significant introductions are as follows:
      1. 'Nugget' – 1960. D. T. Pope, Dept. of Horticultural Science, L. W. Nielsen, Dept. of Plant Pathology, and M. W. Hoover, Dept. of Food Science.
      2. A high yielding cultivar of good shape and resistance to internal cork virus and fusarium wilt.
      3. 'Gem' – 1964. D. T. Pope, L. W. Nielsen and M. W. Hoover.
      4. Released for earliness coupled with high quality and disease resistance.
      5. 'Porto Rico' – 1966. D. T. Pope and M. W. Hoover.
      6. This cultivar offered a significant increase in yield over earlier strains and had a greatly improved orange colored flesh.
      7. 'Jewel' – 1971. D. T. Pope, L. W. Nielsen and N. C. Miller, Dept. of Food Science.
      8. The most popular sweet potato in North Carolina today. It combines excellent storage quality with a higher yield than 'Porto Rico 198' and resistance to internal cork virus as well as fusarium wilt.
      9. 'Copper Skin Jewel' – 1973. D. T. Pope.
      10. This cultivar gives growers a deeper skin color for meeting certain market demands along with the same high qualities of yield, storage and disease resistance of 'Jewel'
  5. Irish Potato
    1. 'Sequoia' – 1939. M. E. Gardner, R. Schmidt, Dept. of Horticultural Science; and F. J. Stevenson – USDA.
    2. Released for the high yielding quality of its day and resistance to leaf hopper as well as flea beetle.
    3. 'Plymouth' – 1957. F. L. Haynes, F. D. Cochran, Dept. Horticultural Science; F. J. Stevenson and R. V. Akeley – USDA.
    4. An early maturing, high yielding variety with good chipping quality. It has resistance to the common race of late blight and moderate resistance to common scab.
    5. 'Boone' – 1957. F. L. Haynes, F. D. Cochran, F. J. Stevenson and R. V. Akeley.
    6. A late maturing, high yielding variety adapted to western North Carolina and immune to the common race of late blight. It has outstanding keeping quality, is slow to sprout in common storage.
  6. Watermelon
    1. 'Sweet Princess' – 1966. W. R. Henderson, Dept. of Horticultural Science; 
      N. W. Winstead and S. F. Jenkins, Jr., Dept. of Plant Pathology.
    2. A commercial cultivar released for its high quality including crispness, high sugar content, general attractiveness, and small seeds as well as its resistance to fusarium wilt and anthracnose
  7. Blueberry

    Blueberry Cultivars Released from North Carolina State Universtiy

    1. The blueberry breeding program is a cooperative effort between the North Carolina Agricultural Experiment Station and the USDA. It's objectives are the development of cultivars resistant to cane canker, tolerant to the bud mite, and high in quality as determined by size, color, taste, firmness and shipping tolerance. Climatic tolerance plays an important role since North Carolina is at the southern fringe of adaptability, By going back to native species canker resistance has been incorporated into each of the introductions listed below:
    2. 'Wolcott' – 1950. E. B. Morrow, Dept. of Horticultural Science and G. M. Darrow – USDA.
    3. A vigorous, highly productive, early-maturing cultivar with aromatic fruit. Quality is medium.
    4. 'Murphy' – 1950. E. B. Morrow and G. M. Darrow.
    5. Vigorous and tough bushes with large berries maturing early to mid-season.
    6. 'Angola' – 1951. E. B. Morrow and G. M. Darrow.
    7. A very early and highly productive cultivar bearing berries with only a fine scar and high resistance to cracking. Berry color is dark.
    8. 'Ivanhoe' – 1951. E. B. Morrow and G. M. Darrow.
    9. A very vigorous and productive bush bearing large, light blue berries during mid-season which are resistant to cracking and of high dessert quality.
    10. 'Croatan' – 1954. E. B. Morrow and G. M. Darrow.
    11. A vigorous upright bush with early season berries high resistant to bud mite and cracking. Berries are sweet and slightly aromatic.
    12. 'Morrow' – 1964. G. J. Galletta, Dept. of Horticultural Science; J. N. Moore and D. H. Scott – both with the USDA.
      A very early cultivar with a concentrated maturity period well suited to mechanical harvesting. Berry size and color show improvement over previous introductions.
    13. 'Harrison' – 1974. G. J. Galletta and A. D. Draper, USDA.
      A midseason berry of greatly improved size, firmness, color, and keeping quality, as well as consistent with productivity. Has resistance to stem canker and bud mite.Vaccinium ashi Reade
      The following two cultivars were among the first of the rabbiteye species introduced. Both are highly desirable for home gardens.
    14. 'Garden Blue' – 1958. F. E. Correll and G. W. Schneider, Department of Horticultural Science; and D. H. Scott
    15. A vigorous, early season cultivar with medium size, light blue berries of good shipping quality.
    16. 'Menditoo' – 1958. F. E. Correll, G. W. Schneider and D. H. Scott..
      A late season berry maturing over an extended period. Fruit are very large, dark and juicy with good flavor.
    1. A continuous program of strawberry breeding was initiated in North Carolina in 1893 at the Willard Experimental Station as a joint effort between the USDA and the North Carolina Department of Agriculture. In 1936 the North Carolina Agricultural Experiment Station entered into the program. Early releases included 'Blakemore' introduced in 1930 by G. M. Darrow of the USDA and C. H. Dearing of the North Carolina Department of Agriculture. 'Fairmore', 'Daybreak' and 'Eleanor Roosevelt' were introduced in 1939 by E.B. Morrow of the Department of Horticultural Science and G. M. Darrow. 'Massey' was introduced the following year by the same researchers and 'Albritton' in 1951 by E. B. Morrow, G. M. Darrow and D. H. Scott (USDA). 'Fairmore' and 'Daybreak' declined due to virus diseases and 'Eleanor Roosevelt' due to a dark color. 'Blakemore', 'Massey' and 'Albritton' succeeded; the first of its superior shipping quality and color, the 'Massey' because of its large size and good flavor, and the last due to large size, high flavor and good shipping quality.
    2. The objectives of this program continue to be the development of large, attractive, good shipping, disease resistant, high flavored, productive cultivars for the southeast. More recent cultivar introductions are:
    3. 'Earlibelle' - 1964. G. .J. Galletta, Department of Horticultural Science and D. H. Scott – USDA.
      An early season cultivar widely grown around the world at this latitude. It is an excellent plant maker under a wide range of environmental situations. Fruit are firm, high in flavor, and of excellent processing quality.
    4. 'Atlas'
    5. 'Apollo' - 1970. G. J. Galletta and D. H. Scott.
      These cultivars were developed principally for fresh fruit shipping and represent a considerable improvement over
    6. 'Earlibelle' and 'Albritton' in terms of size and yield. 'Atlas' is an early-midseason cultivar resistant to leafspot and leaf scorch while 'Apollo' is a late season cultivar resistant to powdery mildew and leaf spot.
    7. 'Titan' -1972. G. J. Galetta and D. H. Scott.
      Extremely large and firm fruit of high quality. Resistant to leaf spot and leaf scorch. Especially suited for local and pick-your-own marketing.
    1. Muscadine grapes are native to North America. Scuppernong was one of the first cultivars selected from the wild in the 18th century. Around 1900 work was initiated by the USDA and North Carolina Department of Agriculture to deveolop perfect flowered cultivars. In 1948, through the principal efforts of Charles Dearing at the Willard NCDA Experiment Station, 14 cultivars were introduced from this program, six of which were perfect flowered. The work continued as a cooperative program between N. C. State University and the USDA. Professor C. F. Williams released five cultivars in 1962, one of which was 'Magnolia', a principal grape grown in North Carolina at this time.
    2. 'Carlos' – Released in 1970 by W. B. Nesbitt and V. H. Underwood, Department of Horticultural Science, and D. E. Carroll, Department of Food Science. This cultivar is being widely planted in North Carolina today due to its adaptability to mechanical harvesting, heavy yield, and wine making quality.
    3. 'Noble' – Released in 1972 by the same group of researchers for its suitability in making red wine, juice and jelly.
    4. 'Dixie' – Released in 1976 by W. B. Nesbitt and V. H. Underwood of the Department of Horticultural Science, and John Mortensen, Florida Experiment Station.
      Has high resistance to Pierce's disease. Has wide adaptability and good winter hardiness as well as low chilling requirements. Excellent fresh fruit quality. Perfect flowered.
  10. PEACH
    1. A peach breeding program was initiated in 1951 with the following objectives in mind. The resulting cultivars were released by F. R. Correll, Department of Horticultural Science and C. N. Clayton, Department of Plant Pathology.
    2. Develop a series of locally adapted varieties with a ripening sequence from
      very early to very late.