A real plum for Wisconsin growers
Professor's quest could yield a sweet new crop for Midwest agriculture
By KATHLEEN GALLAGHER
Posted: May 21, 2005
After 14 years of pruning branches, grafting stem pieces to root stock and tweezing stamens and petals off plants so they don't self-pollinate, a University of Wisconsin-River Falls horticulture professor has developed a plum that could create a whole new crop for Midwestern commercial growers.
Brian R. Smith's Lydecker plum won't be available in nurseries for at least three years. But the fruit-bearing tree he patiently bred from a cherry plum mom and a Japanese dessert plum dad has all the qualities that Smith and others believe will help Midwestern commercial growers produce a fruit that hasn't been grown here before.
The Lydecker plum tree is highly productive and short-statured, has good winter hardiness and a fruit that ripens earlier, and produces completely round, purple to black plums.
"It's very juicy, a really succulent plum that's tasty and large - and it's a relatively modest plant with pretty good production on it. It looks like a winner," said Rodney J. Nilsestuen, Wisconsin's secretary of the Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection.
"There's no reason we shouldn't be able to grow the Lydecker throughout the Midwest," said Smith, who is growing his new plum in River Falls, east of Minneapolis-St. Paul.
Wisconsin has no commercial plum industry at present, but some see the Lydecker as a potential way to compensate for injuries California has inflicted on other state endeavors.
"This is our revenge. California has been taking our cheese and milk, and now we're going to take their plum industry," said Maliyakal E. John, general manager of WiSys, the licensing and patenting arm of the UW System.