Obituary: We mourn the departure of “Floyd” Zaiger , probably the most famous stone fruit breeder of the last century
Chris “Floyd” Zaiger (born in 1926) was one of the world’s most important stone fruit breeders of the 20th century. Trained as a biologist, he initially worked with F.W. Anderson (pioneer of modern peach breeding) from 1956 to 1957, and in 1958 he founded with his wife Zaiger Genetics (Modesto, California), perhaps the most important and complete breeding program worldwide for peaches, plums, apricots, cherries and rootstocks. Floyd released his first varieties ‘Royal Gold’ and ‘Crimson Gold’ in 1960, and today the company holds more than 200 US patented varieties. Floyd was not only the founder and owner of Zaiger Genetics, but mostly and for many years, an excellent breeder, able to recognize opportunities and promptly respond to the needs of the fruit industry all over the world. He has developed and improved important fruit quality traits (texture, colour, flavor, shelf-life) and earliness, introducing the practice of embryo rescue in breeding to obtain early-ripening varieties. Among the best-known varietal series, we mention the ‘Honey’ and ‘Arctic’ series, and above all, the ‘Big Top’ nectarine and the ‘Rich Lady’ peach, which revolutionized first and then conditioned the whole peach varietal landscape by introducing the ‘slow softening’ texture trait.