Story of James Claypool, the foremost breeder of the American persimmon the world has ever seen.

Somewhere around 1972, Jim Claypool, St. Elmo, IL, a successful oil well drilling equipment salesman who flew his own airplane, decided to conquer another field.  He felt diospyros virginiana, the American persimmon, could be improved & commercialized. He felt it would take a year, maybe 2 at the most. Thirty years later,  weíre still trying to solve a lot of the 9 problems Jim took on. Jim selected to:

1.Reduce the long ripening period
2.Improve fruit size
3.Calyx holding to fruit when dropping from the tree
4.Increase the already wonderful flavor
5.Skin tough enough to hold fruit when it strikes ground
6.Better the color of skin or attractiveness
7.Reduce seed numbers
8.Eliminate black spots in fruit flesh
9.Improve pulp color & longevity when frozen

Jim looked for help for the application of the technicalities. Surprisingly, a lot of people werenít interested in improving persimmons. He did find a professor in Horticulture at the University of Illinois by the name of J. C. McDaniel who supplied a lot of information.

He then set out to collect the best varieties being propagated at the time. Fortunately, a man by the name Sonnaman near Vandalia, IL had a large collection covering several acres of fruit and nut varieties which included most of the best known American persimmon varieties at that time. Jim grafted the best of these around his sales office & started breeding. Most were from the Early Golden family such as Garretson, Golden Supreme, Marion & Killen.. He and Dr. J. C. McDaniel selected four males from the Early Golden family for breeding. These males are named, George, Mike, G1M and G2M.

Jim laid out 12 rows 1/4 mile long & placed the tree rows in 15 foot centers with 10 foot spacing between trees & later in 7.5 foot centers to grow the progeny. Many that didnít measure up to his goals were excised & replaced by later bred seed.

He taste tested persimmons, but found others didnít agree with him on what was good & best. He found a woman at the University of Oregon who had experience with apples. She said you should have 70 different tasters &do it on the same fruit because of the difference in fruit on the same tree. The air circulation & sun exposure made differences on the same tree! It was obvious that 2, 5 or even 10 years werenít going to produce the final answer. The record keeping for over 2000 trees & all of their characteristics is a gargantuan task but Jim kept very accurate records. Yearly records of the performance of each tree, size of fruit, taste, earliness, start and finish dates of fruit drop, all hand written on large accounting ledger sheets.

In or about 1991, Jim became seriously ill. He tried desperately to get help universities & other organizations to carry on his program, but none came forth. It was about this time members from the Indiana Nut Growers Association after several visits expressed interest in carrying on Jimís persimmon project. Many members have been to the orchard over the years for taste testing and collecting scion wood to propagate and retain for the future the best of his breeding work.

Members of INGA began testing and keeping more detailed evaluations records. This record is a combination of Jimís records and those of INGA. Most trees that rated poorly are not included. Evaluation numbers are from 1 to 10 with 10 being the best possible rating. Seedlessness is a desired quality, therefore a fully seeded variety would be rated 1, fully seedless a 10. The score of total points is a good indicator but not totally reliable as some evaluations are incomplete.

Claypool Orchard records(620KB)

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