For many years Italy was the top producer of peaches in the world, and is today second only to China.
Italian production varies from 1.5-1.7 million metric tons annually, equal to about 40% of European production. Peach is native to China where it is one of the most common fruit species grown, though it has found a second important center of cultivation in the Mediterranean countries.
This species is the subject of the most active genetic improvement programs: every year about a hundred new varieties are licensed.
This flourishing innovation has enriched the already numerous categories of peaches (white- and yellowfleshed peaches, white- and yellow-fleshed nectarines, canning peaches) with new types (sweet or subacid flesh, balanced flesh, acidic flesh, peento peaches and nectarines, peaches and nectarines with red flesh).
A recent development of importance for subtropical areas and countries is the introduction to the market of low-chill (requiring 100-400 chilling hours) varieties of peaches and nectarines, which has expanded the area of peach and nectarine growing to the southern shore of the Mediterranean where fruit can be ready for market starting in mid-April.
There have also been numerous new rootstocks developed, which are gradually substituting GF677 where soil conditions do not suit it (presence of nematodes, root rot due to Armillaria, oxygen-poor soils, control of tree vigour or encouraging earlier ripening for early-season varieties, etc.).
Training systems are also evolving, and the best are proving to be the modified vase types such as the delayed open vase and the Catalan vase which decrease the costs of planting and canopy management.