Published by Communications and Public Affairs (519) 824-4120, Ext. 56982 or 53338
November 14, 2000
Award-winning project evaluates the best apple varieties
One bad apple may not spoil the whole bunch, but one bad variety of apples could be a major blow for Canada's $175 million apple industry.
An award-winning research program involving University of Guelph researchers is making it easier for growers to choose the most profitable and appealing varieties to plant.
Since its inception in 1995, project NE-183, or "Multidisciplinary Evaluation of New Apple Cultivars," has evaluated 50 new apple varieties that are most likely to impact the Canadian and U.S. apple industry's future and appeal to changing consumer demands domestically and internationally.
"This is our industry's crystal ball into the future," says Dr. John Cline of the University of Guelph's Simcoe Research Station, who along with Charlie Embree at Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) in Kentville, N.S., and Dr. Cheryl Hampson, AAFC in Summerland, B.C., oversees research at Canada's three test orchards. "Research orchards provide a focal point for growers and industry representatives to actually see and evaluate these new cultivars first hand under their specific growing environments. They also provide one of the most authoritative and objective sources of information that a grower can obtain prior to planting a new orchard."
Establishing a new orchard can cost more than $10,000/acre, and most orchards require at least six years to reach full production. "Selecting cultivars for new plantings is one of the riskiest decisions that an apple grower must make," said Cline. "The NE-183 project provides Canada access to new cultivars that would be difficult to obtain otherwise."
The program's extensive research -- apple varieties originating from Canada, the United States, Europe, New Zealand, Australia, and Japan are evaluated -- received recognition Nov. 2 with the NERA 2000 Award of Excellence from the Agriculture Experiment Station Directors of the Northeast at their annual meeting in Wooster, Ohio.
The collaborative project involves Ontario, British Columbia, Nova Scotia and 21 US states. Apple cultivars are tested for taste, texture, firmness and storage potential as well as ease with which they may be managed and harvested. Pathologists and entomologists look at which cultivars are susceptible to fungal and bacterial damage and insects -- information that can help growers select more sustainable production systems. The project also compares the cost of production and profitability of new apple cultivars.
The list of 23 cultivars in original 1995 plantings included Braeburn, Fuji, Ginger Gold, Honeycrisp, Fortune and several advanced-breeding selections from British Columbia, New Jersey and New York. In 1999, project participants planted 22 additional selections including Ambrosia, Autumn Gold, Chinook, Delblush and Zestar.
Before the NE-183 project was initiated, evaluations were often conducted informally, and results were rarely published in scientific journals. Trials were seldom coordinated across broad geographic regions, nor could data be directly compared because of differences in planting dates, rootstocks used, combinations of cultivars chosen for evaluations and data collection methods.
"This new approach means that considerable efficiency in total effort and improvement in the type and quality of information generated is achieved," said Cline.
For more information, contact Dr. John Cline at Simcoe, at 519-426-7127, or Communications and Public Affairs at 519-824-4120, Ext. 6982. The NE-183 project Web site is at www.ne183.org.