The Land & Orchards
The land comprising the Wolfskill Experimental Orchards was deeded to the University of California in three separate parcels:
- The original 108 acres were donated by John's daughter, Frances Wolfskill Wilson, in 1934 (photo, outlined in red).
- The Wilson tract, of 28 acres, was donated by Frances Wolfskill Wilson in 1953 (photo, outlined in yellow).
- The Masson tract, of 20 acres, was donated by Masson Land Enterprises in 1985 (photo, outlined in magenta).
Since the University acquired the Wolfskill property in 1938 the majority of land has been used for plant breeding and cultivar evaluation projects. Dr. Warren Tufts, Pomology Division Chairman (1933-56), noted in a 1946 planning document that all 100 acres at Winters were occupied by breeding programs for apricots, peaches, almonds and plums. Since 1946 many additional species have been planted and the types of projects have diversified, but the majority of the land is still used for breeding programs and germplasm evaluation, development and preservation.
In 1980 the Department of Pomology and the University of California, Davis, signed a long-term lease agreement with United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Agriculutural Research Service (ARS) to establish the orchards of the National Clonal Germplasm Repository at Wolfskill.
This repository (a living library of now-obscure fruit) includes stonefruit (peach, plum, nectarine, apricot, almond, prune), grape, walnut, pistachio, persimmon, walnut, olive, pomegranate, fig, and kiwifruit germplasm.
Since 1980 the remaining land has been used for pomological research conducted by the faculty of the Pomology Department (now, UC Davis Department of Plant Sciences). For the past 30 years the bulk of the land managed by the Department has been used for three types of activities:
- Plant Breeding Germplasm
- Evaluation blocks for research and education, and
- Horticultural and physiological studies.
"In the past 10 years the UC Wolfskill Experiment Orchards have gone from an almost “secret” gem of the Pomology Department, that relatively few members of the University community knew or cared about, to a “destination” for visitors and administrators who want to simultaneously experience a bit of modern agricultural field research and land-based agricultural heritage.
I have every expectation that this new niche will continue to grow in importance over the next decades and that Wolfskill’s impact on horticulture will continue to expand because of both the research that is carried out and its significance to agricultural history in the area."
. . . . Ted DeJong, 2009