Variety and cultivar selection is the largest economic decision a grower can make when establishing a new high-density orchard block where a thousand trees or more per acre are planted.
Win Cowgill and Jon Clements want to help with that.
The two fruit extension educators—Cowgill with the New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station and Clements with the University of Massachusetts—have collaborated once again on an Internet project, creating a new Web site called appletesters.net.
It allows growers to log on and view records about variety performance. They can also help create records. By becoming apple testers, they can add their observations, so, over the years, a database is created that covers multiple years and multiple locations.
Growers or extension personnel who want to become apple testers and enter their data on the site need to contact Jon Clements, who will set it up so they can log in as testers. But anyone can find data by logging in as a guest and searching for information.
Besides grower input, they hope organizations conducting formal evaluations—such as universities and nurseries—will use the site to report and archive their findings.
“Jon and I have started it off,” Cowgill said. “We’ve posted 286 records. We hope others will use it, but it’s voluntary. Rob Crassweller at Penn State has lots of data on 22 scab-resistant varieties. I’d like to see that on our site.”
A few years ago, there was a NE-183 project in which apple specialists in the Northeast cooperatively evaluated apple varieties—much like the NC-140 trials for apple rootstocks. “That sort of faded away,” Cowgill said.
Hence the new Web site.
The database will include pictures and casual observations in addition to fruit quality measurements and important horticultural characteristics including tree habit, bloom time, disease tolerance, mortality, precociousness, fruit appearance, taste, storability, and more.
Here’s how to navigate the site;
Go to appletesters.net and select “Guest Login.”
A toolbar at the top has a “Help” button that opens a window that stays open and contains directions.
To find data on a specific variety, select the “Find” button in the toolbar. Type in the name of the cultivar you want to look at.
Click on “Perform Find”. This brings up the records.
On the top left on the toolbar, “Found Records” appears. By electronically turning the pages, you can cycle through the records for that variety.
Potentially, the creators say, appletesters.net can become an important repository of information on cultivars and strains, on tree growth and fruit quality, and help growers make planting decisions.