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Fall 2009
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New Apple Selections Are Fast-Tracked at 30 NY Orchards

By Kara Lynn Dunn

Susan Brown
Joe Ogrodnick
Project leader Susan Brown

Thirty New York orchard owners are growing new apple selections developed at CALS’ Agricultural Experiment Station in Geneva to test whether the apples could be a commercial success. Aiming to fast-track grower testing of 42 advanced apple-breeding selections, the New York Farm Viability Institute provided funds for the tests. Susan Brown, Herman M. Cohn Professor of Horticultural Sciences and project leader, expects the project to identify two new varieties with the potential for commercialization.

“If the expected new apples are even half as successful in commercial orchards as their predecessors—the Empire, Jonagold, Macoun, etc.—New York’s apple producers will harvest great fruit with a tremendous economic impact,” Brown says.

Over the past century, Cornell has developed 62 apple varieties, including the Empire. From 1996 to 2004, New York produced half of the U.S.-grown Empire apple crop at a value of more than $20 million. Donald F. “Tre” Green III, a third-generation tree fruit grower, is evaluating six to 10 trees of 12 varieties of the upstarts at his 1,300-acre Chazy Orchards in Clinton County. If a variety proves successful, he will devote 20 acres to the new apple. He estimates an investment of 6,000 trees per acre would cost approximately $5,000. The return from the mature orchard would be about $10,000 per acre per year. Green hopes the trial apples do as well as his last new variety.

“The Honeycrisp was an unknown when I planted it in 2000, and it has proven to be perfect for our northern growing conditions and our buyers,” he says. The Cornell-affiliated New York Farm Viability Institute is a farmer-led nonprofit group that awards funds to research and outreach projects that help farmers increase profits. In late 2005, the institute awarded a multiyear grant to help growers test new apple varieties in field conditions.