The Santana variety, selected by Dutch researchers in 1978, is a cross of Elstar and Priscilla.
Dutch researchers believe Santana, a hypoallergenic apple variety that’s finding an outlet in some of the Netherlands’s leading super–markets, may help orchardists reduce their –environmental impact.
Santana, a cross of Elstar and Priscilla, was selected by researchers at Wageningen University in 1978. The fruit is midsized, firm, and aromatic, with a yellow skin that flushes red as it approaches maturity at the first of September. It is also notable for being of minimal risk to people allergic to apples, which is about 2 percent of the population of northern and central Europe.
But what interests Dr. Rien van der Maas, a senior research scientist at Wageningen University focusing on farming systems and soils, is the variety’s resistance to scab and mild susceptibility to European fruit canker, Nectria galligena. These traits mean growers can cultivate Santana with fewer inputs than other varieties, an important factor for meeting the stringent standards of –Holland’s Centrum voor Landbouw en Milieu (CLM, or Centre for Agriculture and the –Environment).
An advocate for sustainable farming practices, the organization has developed a point system for grading the environmental impact of chemical inputs. The orchard models van der Maas is developing aim to achieve a lower score than the "maximum acceptable risk" determined by CLM’s scoring system.
"You have chemicals that you use in large quantities which hardly have an environmental effect, then you have chemicals which you only use one time in only a very small concentration with very large environmental impact. So, actually, we calculate the impact to surface water, groundwater, and soils, and in future, probably the air," he said. "The goal we set for our program is that none of the individual spraying activities lead to environmental pollution above the maximum accepted level."
Ideally, new systems should be robust enough to produce fruit without significant chemical use, he added. State-of-the-art spray nozzles, practices such as spraying the outside rows of orchards to limit drift into watercourses, and integrated pest management are all facets of a system he’s developing that’s currently on trial at three locations.
"There are still one or two chemicals you cannot use because the environmental pollution is too high, so you skip those and try to think of something else to solve that problem," he said.
That’s where Santana fits in. Since growers in Holland have one real option for controlling scab—sulfur—van der Maas said there’s a need for scab-resistant varieties.
Sulfur, he notes, can promote russetting.
"That’s not good for