Evaluation of apple and pear varieties for cold humid climates under certified organic management

2014 Annual Report for FNE14-812

Project Type: Farmer
Funds awarded in 2014: $14,828.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2014
Region: Northeast
State: Vermont
Project Leader:
Todd Parlo
Walden Heights Nursery & Orchard

Evaluation of apple and pear varieties for cold humid climates under certified organic management


Our Project   “Evaluation of Apple and Pear Varieties for Cold Humid Climates under Certified Organic Management” is a record based review of a large variety of pome cultivars.

Our study is reviewing more than 400 apple varieties at our location in Walden, VT (44 .27 north latitude) in US zone 3 (where winter temps have reached -40 F in the last 5 years).  The orchard is certified organic including these test blocks.  Trees for the research already existed onsite (Walden Heights Nursery and Orchard).  Attributes such as general tree health, cold hardiness, disease and pest susceptibility, and practicality under organic management will be assessed. Information was recorded weekly. We will publish the results yearly on the research section of our website, through various organizations, and in press releases.

Terence Bradshaw,  project technical advisor, came out to the farm this summer to answer questions,  visit the orchard, and review /discuss means of evaluating disease on foliage.  Tim Schmalz (State Plant Pathologist), helped via correspondence in diagnosis protocol, (Staff from his dept. routinely visit, and have helped us identify disease and pest issues on trees over the years).

Objectives/Performance Targets

All necessary data has been collected, and most has been formatted as a database. Several isolated spreadsheets have been made for clarity’s sake. For instance, fruit characteristic, bloom period, and tree attributes/susceptibilities are displayed separately.

Bloom dates were assessed on approximately 100 varieties, fruit characteristics (including brix, pH, disease or pest presence, keeping qualities) also of roughly 100 varieties. The pool of tree characteristics was larger, at close to 1000 trees (400 + varieties), listing vigor, health, form, cold hardiness and disease susceptibility.

Outstanding in the project is a finalizing of the databases, a general report  of our opinions on the performance of the cultivars in the project.  Outreach is scheduled to begin in mid-January 2015.


General observations are somewhat as predicted, that is, a wide variety of differences in cultivars with different responses to our climate and growing practices. Although 2014 was a very light fruiting year region wide, due to the large cross section of cultivars at Walden Heights, we were able to still obtain a large pool of fruit for that part of the experiment. Surprises so far in the study relate to insect susceptibility differences :  there is less evidence than expected for particular varieties being noticeably resistant or susceptible to insect attack (though there are some general differences especially concerning time of harvest).  Variances in disease susceptibility, vigor, hardiness and form are pronounced.

Impacts and Contributions/Outcomes

Although since reporting (outreach) has not occurred yet, there has been a good deal of  interest from growers we have encountered.  This project runs until February 2016.


Terry Bradshaw

[email protected]
Research Specialist
University of Vermont
63 Carrigan Drive
Burlington, VT 05405
Office Phone: 8029222591