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A row of New York 1 apples nears maturity.

A row of New York 1 apples nears maturity.

Cornell University  has had an apple breeding program for about 110 years, and it’s been quite successful. New York 1 and New York 2 are the 65th and 66th new varieties released by Cornell since breeding began, and the list includes such well-known names as Cortland, Empire, Jonagold, Macoun, and Liberty.

Among other accomplishments, Cornell published the first apple genetic linkage map; identified and/or developed molecular markers for fruit color, scab resistance, and tree architecture; and began breeding varieties for fruit quality traits including vitamin C content, nonbrowning flesh, scab resistance, and the gene that gives Honeycrisp its distinctive juicy crispness.

But the new varieties are the first to be released as managed varieties to which only in-state growers will have access. There will be production limits, and an organized group will develop the overall marketing plan. Unlike Washington State, which also recently released a variety exclusively for its growers, New York has a large base of consumers and a highly developed direct marketing system that funnels apples from New York orchards into the large cities of the East Coast.

This direct marketing system, Dr. Susan Brown said, assures that consumers will be introduced to the new varieties in a variety of venues—farm stands, farmers’ markets, New York City’s Green Markets, as well as supermarkets through wholesale distribution.

The arrangement is new for Cornell’s apple breeding program. In the past, it publicly released all new varieties to nurseries and growers and only recovered limited tree royalties. This new “managed release” system may be used in the future as well, but it does not preclude future public releases, Brown said. “We will just do managed if it makes sense.

“The New York apple industry has been a strong and supportive partner that has provided significant funding to apple research at Cornell for many years,” said Tom Burr, associate dean of Cornell’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and director of the New York State Agricultural Experiment Station in Geneva. “To now develop a business partnership that strategically benefits the New York industry and the Cornell apple breeding program is truly a historic accomplishment.”

“We want varieties that will excite our consumers,” said Roger Lamont, Albion, New York, apple grower and chairman of New York Apple Growers. “And we need varieties that thrive in New York State—a very different growing environment than Washington State or New Zealand.”

All of the nearly 600 apple growers in New York State have been offered the opportunity to join New York Apple Growers this year. Broad participation from growers is key to commercial success because, although large wholesale growers ultimately supply supermarkets, the farm stands of smaller producers play a significant role in introducing new varieties to consumers.

Growers will pay royalties on trees purchased, acreage planted, and fruit produced. New York Apple Growers will pay licensing royalties to Cornell University, determine the total statewide acreage for the new varieties, ensure quality standards at harvest, and use a portion of the income generated from members to market the apples as well as to directly fund the Cornell apple breeding program.
The two new varieties, as yet unnamed, will be named and ­trademarked.