New varieties hold promise for New York growers

08/29/2013 01:08:00 PM
David Mitchell

Here is some good news for fans of the Honeycrisp. Researchers at Cornell University have produced an offspring of the popular variety that may be even better than its parent.

The bad news? It might be awhile before you can get your hands on SnapDragon or another new variety from Cornell, RubyFrost.

“There will be a few to taste this year, but commercial volume is a year or two away,” said Lee Peters, vice president of sales and marketing for Fowler Farms, Wolcott, N.Y.

Jeff Crist, partner in Crist Bros. Orchards Inc., Walden, N.Y., and vice chairman of New York Apple Growers LLC, which will have exclusive licensing rights to the varieties in North America, said the 2013 crops likely will be limited to farmers markets in the state and limited retail testing.

Cornell University breeder Susan Brown, who developed the varieties, said SnapDragon is similar to Honeycrisp in quality, but it is far less prone to many of the production challenges of Honeycrisp, including bitter pit, soft scald and fire blight susceptibility. Both new apples have longer shelf lives than Honeycrisp, she said.

“We think SnapDragon gives us more flexibility to deliver a product with qualities similar to Honeycrisp,” Crist said. “It’s also more grower-friendly.”

Brown said SnapDragon and RubyFrost — which have been in development for years but had been referred to as New York 1 and New York 2, respectively, until recently — both offer “consistency and a quality eating experience.”

“Fruits are crisp, juicy, firm with good aroma and flavor,” she said. “Consumer reactions have been very positive.”

While SnapDragon was bred from Honeycrisp and an unnamed apple in Cornell’s program, RubyFrost is a combination of braeburn and Autumn Crisp.

RubyFrost will be harvested in late October, and Snapdragon will be ready in mid- to late September. New York Apple Growers said RubyFrost will be marketed as a seasonal “limited-time only” product in the winter and spring.

New York Apple Growers, a group of 140 companies formed in 2010, will pay royalties to Cornell based on the number of trees purchased, acreage planted and fruit produced. Brown said about 400 combined acres of the varieties are planted now, and that number should increase to 900 within a few years.

Brown said whether the varieties eventually will be grown outside New York will be up to the NYAG.



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