Breeding Better Apple Varieties for the Midwest

Final Report for FNC99-270

Project Type: Farmer/Rancher
Funds awarded in 1999: $13,748.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2001
Region: North Central
State: Illinois
Project Coordinator:
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Project Information


Our family business consists of 300 acres of apple and peach trees with smaller acreages of pumpkin, Christmas trees, strawberry and blackberry. The St. Louis metropolitan area is our customer base for direct marketing. We operate a farm market and have pick your own sales in all our crops. Recently, we have added a restaurant and will open a garden center in spring 2002. There are six family members working full time in this business.

My best efforts in sustainable practices are in pest management on apples. After small acreage trials, I put 35 acres of apples in a codling moth pheromone confusion program. 300 twist tie applicators containing laboratory duplicated female pheromones were placed in each acre of apples. By “flooding” the orchard with pheromone, male moths are confused, unable to locate females. Mating is disrupted and the pest is controlled. No pesticides were needed for codling moth during the 2001 season.

We want to breed new apple varieties suitable for the Midwest. These varieties will possess disease resistance, large fruit size, productive annual cropping, late blooming dates, great flavor, acceptable appearance and storage ability, high soluble solids and acids, and minimal pre-harvest drop.

The “we” referenced in the above project goals is the Midwest Apple Improvement Association, a group formed by growers to develop and implement an apple breeding program. This was strategically necessary to gain some respectability in the academic community and to promote and publicize our efforts. The awarding of this SARE grant also enhances our efforts in much the same fashion.

For the first half of the twentieth century, classical apple breeding was a recognized academic endeavor at many Agricultural Experiment Stations throughout the US. Since that time, most of the programs have been ended for a variety of reasons. The few remaining programs (none in the Midwest) do not fully address our needs or they are proprietary by design. Thus, it was necessary to do this project ourselves. The MAIA has over 60 members, each contributing at least a $100.00 yearly.

The steps in classical apple breeding are:
1) Select parents expressing desired traits.
2) Make the crosses
3) Germinate the resulting seeds and grow them to field ready size.
4) Line out the seedling in the field and make observations and selections over a ten year period

We tapped the advice and experience of tree fruit breeders, horticulturalists, and nurserymen, to assist in the first three steps. Step number four requires member growers with the resources, interest, and tenacity to establish these ten year seedling plots on their own farms. Frankly, the establishment phase is well within the competence of growers. The long term observation and selection phase will be the major hurdle for our organization, but without grower participation, the costs of the project would be prohibitive.

Many people assisted with this project. Our academic sources are:
- Ohio State University, Dr. Diane Miller, Dr. Dave Ferree, Dr. Joe Scheerens
- Cornell University, Dr. Phil Forsline, Dr. Herb Aldwinkle, Dr. Susan Brown, Mr. Ken Livermore
- Purdue University, Dr. Jules Janick, Dr. Peter Hirst
- University of Arkansas, Dr. Curt Rom

This academic group includes breeders, horticulturalists, and pathologists who offered wise counsel on parent selection, disease screening, and the nuts and bolts of making the crosses and growing off seedlings.

Private participants include the Ohio Farm Bureau, who has assisted us with organizational management, and publications. Meadow Lake Nurseries in Oregon has produced our trees from seed and gotten them field ready.

I must mention Mitch Lynd of Ohio and Ed Fackler of Indiana as the two growers who gave vision and life to this project. They are our founders.

The four producers named in this SARE grant have established the following trees on their farms.

Year 2000
Producer, Seedling number, Parentage
Eckert, 1275, Goldrush x CQR10T17
Cruttenden, 1575, Goldrush X Enterprise
Doud, 209, Goldrush x Melrose
Doud, 325, Honeycrisp x Fuji
Bachman, 800, Goldrush x CQR10T17
Bachman, 67, Goldrush x Honeycrisp

Year 2001
Producer, Seedling number, Parentage
Eckert, 1232, Goldrush x Sweet 16
Cruttenden, 776, Honeycrisp x CLR13T45
Bachman, 576, Goldrush x Suncris
Doud, 109, Goldrush x M. Brevipes
Doud, 239, Honeycrisp x Coop 31
Doud, 286, Honeycrisp x Coop 29
Doud, 25, Goldrush x Melrose
Doud, 47, Honeycrisp x Fuji

The results of this project are quite limited. We have established 2000 and 2001 plantings without major setbacks. These seedlings are in the juvenile stage of growth. They will not flower and fruit for several more years. At that time, real evaluation begins.

Presentations of our activities have been made at the State meetings of Illinois, Indiana, and Ohio fruit producers. Our 2001 annual meeting was held at Dawes Arboretum in Newark, Ohio. We are negotiating with them in hope of establishing field seedlings on their land.

Further outreach will increase when trees begin to fruit.


Participation Summary
Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.