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HONORING PLANT BREEDER

Dr. Gerald A. Marx

When you say the name “Marx” most people think of the author of Das Kapital or of the madcap brothers of stage and screen. To seedspeople the name conjures a very different image—of the man who assembled the greatest collection of pea germplasm in the world, Dr. Gerald A. Marx (1930-1988).

Marx, a professor of Horticultural Sciences at Cornell University for 29 years, also bred tomatoes, beets, carrots and winter squash at the New York State Agricultural Experiment Station at Geneva. But his passion was peas.

A researcher, teacher and worldwide expert on the role of genes in developmental morphology, Marx also was a founder of the Pisum Genetics Association and edited its newsletter for 20 years.

Working with the major pea growers and processing companies, university and USDA scientists, and seed companies, he incorporated new and potentially valuable genes and linkages into breeding lines. He increased the number of peas per pod, incorporated multiple disease resistance to mildew and viruses, reduced the amount of foliage on plants, and encouraged double and triple podding.

Although his career was cut short by illness, his breeding work was prolific. During a dazzlingly successful period in the early and mid-80s he released Olympia, Mayfair, Maestro and Knight shell peas and Early Snap pea. Olympia, Maestro and Knight are widespread in the trade. Since its introduction in 1982, we have sold more than six tons of seed for #720 Maestro. We are offering #724 Knight to commercial growers for the first time in this catalog. Mayfair, perhaps the best of his varieties, has been unavailable in seed catalogs since Agway dropped it in the early 90s. But we are planning to bring it back to commerce so even more people can enjoy Marx’ legacy.