Testing New Dwarfing Apple Rootstocks for the Northern Grower

Project Overview

Project Type: Farmer
Funds awarded in 2009: $5,363.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2010
Region: Northeast
State: Maine
Project Leader:
John O'Meara
O'Meara Family Farm

Annual Reports


  • Fruits: apples, general tree fruits


  • Pest Management: genetic resistance, prevention, weather monitoring
  • Production Systems: organic agriculture

    Proposal summary:

    Current Issue

    The problem: find a disease resistant, dwarfing apple rootstock that is hardy in northern regions.

    This project aims to test new apple rootstocks in USDA zone 3. In this relatively harsh climate with a brief growing season, many semi-dwarf rootstocks do not thrive. Growers in Aroostook County, Maine and in similar climates have been unable to fully reap the benefits of dwarfing rootstocks: fruit-bearing precocity, ease of harvest, and high orchard density. Rootstocks G.41(dwarf) and G.935(semi-dwarf), developed at the USDA/Cornell University Apple Rootstock Breeding Program in Geneva, NY, may offer the hardiness required of a zone 3 climate combined with the benefits of a dwarfing tree. In Addition, G.41 and G.935 have been bred to be resistant to phytophthora and fireblight, and tolerant to replant disease. Because these apple diseases are devastating, resistant traits may contribute to the overall success of these rootstocks, particularly for low-spray and organic growers.

    In zone 3, few commercial orchards or nurseries exist. The success of G.41 and G.935 could open up significant new opportunities for growers in the northeast. Some nurseries in zone 3 specialize in trees grown on Antanovka, a standard rootstock renowned for its hardiness but lacking the quicker return, easier harvest, and higher orchard density possible with dwarfing rootstocks. G.41 and G.935 could be an important improvement over both Antanovka and currently common dwarfing rootstocks.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    Sustainable fruit production has ample room for growth in the northeast. This project aims to test two new rootstocks that would help apple growers across the region. G.41 and G.935, bred to be disease resistant dwarfing rootstocks, have not been tested in a northern New England zone 3 location. This project will entail grafting 200 trees on 4 different rootstocks, including G.41 and G. 935, and two currently common rootstocks for comparison. We will then trace the performance of each grafted tree for one year.

    If successful in our particularly harsh climate, these new rootstocks could allow northern growers to take advantage of the benefits of dwarfing rootstocks while limiting the need for costly an potentially hazardous inputs. By potentially allowing growers to increase fruit yield per acre and limiting the need for chemicals, these rootstocks could significantly boost opportunities for orchards and nurseries in the north.

    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.