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HONORING PLANT BREEDER

James Baggett

For over forty years Dr. James Baggett has been breeding vegetables for improved quality, yield and disease resistance, with special emphasis on adaptation to western Oregon and the Pacific Northwest. His varieties have turned out to be top performers in our part of the country as well. We have sold at least a half dozen of them, and currently offer four.

Remarkably for this transient era, Baggett, a native of Idaho, has spent his entire career at Oregon State University, since receiving his doctorate there in 1956. Probably most noted for his peas and snow peas, he has also worked with green beans, lettuce, squash, tomatoes, broccoli and cabbage. His credits include Sugar Loaf delicata squash, #2797 Summertime, a slow bolting heat resistant head lettuce, a number of particularly early parthenocarpic tomatoes especially suitable for cold areas, and several bush beans with delicious Blue Lake flavor widely grown in Oregon but not so well known elsewhere. He figures his most important cultivars in terms of acreage grown and economic impact are Oregon 91G bush bean and #826 Oregon Sugar Pod II snow pea. Although he concentrates on breeding crops for processing which meet the greatest economic need, Baggett has never neglected home gardeners and small commercial growers.

His #4024 Oregon Spring Tomato, which ripens good-sized fruit in even the worst growing years, has been the salvation of many a Maine gardener. We’ve also enjoyed his mostly seedless Santiam and Siletz tomatoes and his Gold Nugget cherry tomatoes. Eric Sideman, MOFGA Research Director, highly recommends Siletz for growers seeking early good-looking fruit to take to farmers markets.

His Oregon Trail bush bean was one of the best I’ve ever tasted. It didn’t last long on the Fedco list because of slow sales, but probably merits reintroduction.

His OSU II snow pea was bred for powdery mildew resistance. Our 1997 introduction #818 Oregon Giant was part of a continuous 43 year program to breed cultivars resistant to pea enation mosaic virus.