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HONORING PLANT BREEDER

Henry Munger

In his 55-year career at Cornell University, eminent vegetable breeder and educator Dr. Henry M. Munger has introduced more than fifty varieties of cucumbers alone. Of them all, he points to his work on Marketmore 76 as his single most satisfying achievement. “It had improved color and powdery mildew resistance...it saved a lot of fungicide use,” he notes. We have sold more than 22,000 packets (500 pounds) since offering #1312 Marketmore 76 on our original list in 1979.

Munger’s cucumber work encompasses whole lines of Tablegreens, Marketmores, Spacemasters and Poinsetts. The first fusarium wilt-resistant muskmelon, Iroquois, came out of his doctoral research at Cornell in 1941. He also introduced Delicious 51 muskmelon. Both melons are still widely available today. His work on mildness in storage onions led to the joint release of hybrid Sweet Sandwich.

He has specialized in the production of cultivars, inbreds and breeding lines carrying high levels of tolerance or resistance to diseases. Virtually all U.S. slicing cucumbers carry disease resistance and improved color developed in Munger’s breeding program. Disease resistance in summer squash originated from interspecific hybrids made at Cornell.

Probably half of all commercial carrots sold in the U.S. and Europe are hybrids of a chance discovery Dr. Munger made in Orleans, MA in 1953. While picking blueberries, he noticed a wild carrot plant with pink-petaled flowers instead of white. It turned out to be a rare male-sterile that became the mother of hybrid carrot seed production. Through carrot hybridization, plant breeders have increased carotene content and improved taste, uniformity and appearance.

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