4:11pm

Fri August 2, 2013
Agriculture

How do you like them apples?

After more than a decade of development, Cornell University has introduced two new apple varieties to upstate New York.

Previously known as New York one and two, the new RubyFrost and SnapDragon varieties were named Thursday and will be available to consumers as early as this fall.

These original upstate varieties were developed by Susan Brown, based at the Cornell's Department of Horticulture.

Brown says they’re easier for growers to produce, and they’re also easier to serve to kids.

She says SnapDragon will be popular with consumers and growers alike because it’s a hybrid of the much loved Honeycrisp apple, but in addition to its easier production characteristics, it can also be grown for more months out of the year.

But, it’s RubyFrost, an Autumn Crisp cross, that will be popular with parents, Brown says. Because of the way these apples were developed, they have a non-browning quality to them.

“[They] don’t brown when you cut them which is important for kids in school lunches. Cornell research has shown that kids eat much more apples, maybe 70 percent more, if they’re sliced than if they’re whole. So for toddlers, for day cares, it’ll be huge,” she says.

But don’t expect to get your hands on these new additions to the New York apple crop in your local grocery store any time soon. Instead of releasing the varieties publicly, Cornell will retain the intellectual copyright for the apple strains and license them to the New York Apple Growers (NYAG) group. They will make SnapDragon and RubyFrost apples available at select farmers markets in upstate New York this fall. But, it’ll be another year before they start to hit the shelves of local supermarkets.

Vice President of NYAG, Jeff Crist, says the partnership presents a great opportunity for local growers to produce a quality product for consumers.

Most of today’s popular varieties are vulnerable to disease and weather conditions and become a headache for growers. Crist says the qualities of these new varieties, especially the SnapDragon, will make it a little easier for farmers to produce a good crop.

“It’s a more grower-friendly apple and we think we can grow it through a longer term of the growing season," he said. "The Honeycrisp is such a popular apple and it’s a great consumer apple, but it’s a very challenging one for growers to grow.”

Crist says he’s not sure yet whether the easier production of the new apple types will translate to lower prices for consumers. He says the licensing agreement with Cornell makes pricing slightly more complicated.

“We entered into a licensing agreement to grow these apples and there’s a cost to that. So, we hope to be able to grow these apples reliably with strong quality, but we’re still going to have a number of expenses that we have to recoup in that process.”

Despite the licensing cost, New York State Agriculture Commissioner Darrel Aubertine says the new varieties of apples will have a positive economic impact in the industry.

“Apple growers working with Cornell University here in New York state are able to put out new varieties, varieties that I believe consumers are going to be very pleased with. That bodes well for the apple industry here in New York state,” he says. “The local economy, especially here in western New York, the Finger Lakes region, a good deal of it revolves around agriculture, agriculture arguably being one of the largest economic drivers in the state. There’s no question that introducing new varieties of apples, introducing new varieties of hops, grapes, and fruits and vegetables of all kinds, is certainly a good thing and it certainly will have a positive impact on the economy in light of the fact that New York state along with being a big agricultural state is a large consumer state as well. So it does have a ripple effect in the economy here in the state.”

The apple sector is one of the strongest agricultural sectors in the state, and Aubertine says the upstate region is one of the strongest apple growing areas in the nation.

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