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Cornell University Department of Horticulture
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Cornell gardening resources Disease Resistant Apple Cultivars for the Home Orchard
Ecogardening Factsheet #1, Spring 1992

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In simple language and informative graphics, tells you how to grow and harvest the freshest, highest-quality fruit right in your own backyard. Includes information on site selection, soil preparation, planting, pruning and training, pest and disease management, as well as how to choose the best varieties.

Nearly everyone enjoys eating apples. Growing them, however, is a challenge at which few home gardeners excel. Unfortunately, apples are plagued with an enormous pest complex. The demands of proper timing of sprays, the lack of suitable equipment, and concerns about food safety and the environment have made routine pesticide applications a questionable practice for the individual with a few trees.

The development of disease resistant cultivars has greatly diminished the number of sprays required to grow a successful crop. In fact, it is no longer recommended that home gardeners attempt to grow disease susceptible cultivars, unless they are capable of meeting the requirements of a rigorous spray schedule. Despite the tremendous reduction of fungicide sprays, however, insect control is still required with disease resistant material.

Developing resistance to several diseases while maintaining desirable fruit characteristics is no small challenge for the apple breeder. Selecting for resistance to apple scab, fire blight, powdery mildew, and cedar apple rust has resulted in the introduction of several named cultivars which are very good in quality, yet are adaptable to New York State's taxing disease pressure. Currently, many numbered selections are being examined for their commercial potential.

Several excellent cultivars that perform well in the home orchard are described below. Each of those mentioned is resistant to all of the major diseases. It is important to point out that many more cultivars are available commercially, but most have questionable quality or lack of resistance to one or more of the four above-mentioned diseases. Cedar apple rust is an especially important disease in our area. Susceptible trees may lose all their leaves to this disease. In a given year, a cultivar without resistance to all of these diseases may experience an excessive loss of quality and tree health.

Unfortunately, mildew is a difficult pathogen to isolate and understand, and there are many races of this disease in different regions of the state. Even if considered resistant to mildew, infection of the leaves is still possible.

Resistance to less prevalent diseases, such as sooty blotch and fly speck, has not been included in disease resistance programs; the home gardener may notice the appearance of these diseases during years of heavy disease pressure. It is also important to remember that insect and mite control is still a concern.

Recommended Cultivars

Liberty. The New York State Agricultural Experiment Station in Geneva introduced this cultivar in 1978. Liberty is an excellent quality, medium-sized dessert apple. It has rated with Empire in consumer taste tests. It ripens several days before Delicious, and blooms in early midseason. The tree has medium vigor, is spreading, and productive. The flesh is crisp and juicy. It should be thinned to attain adequate fruit size. Fruit will keep well in storage until February.

Freedom. This is a more recent (1983) introduction by the NYS Agricultural Experiment Station at Geneva. The red, medium to large fruit has tender, juicy, sprightly flesh. The tree is vigorous, spreading and very productive. It blooms about three days after McIntosh and ripens a week before Delicious. Fruit can only be stored until January. Freedom is good for making pies.

Redfree. Redfree is a 1981 Purdue-Rutgers-Illinois (PRI) program introduction. It is an early apple, maturing seven weeks before Delicious. Its moderate to large, glossy medium-red fruit are mild in flavor, and can be stored for about a month. The flesh is firm, crisp and juicy. Although uneven ripening, short storage life and tendencies toward biennial production with small fruit size can be potential problems, Redfree can still provide the home gardener with a good early apple that is resistant to the major apple diseases.

William's Pride. This 1988 PRI introduction is mildy acid, very crisp and firm. The fruit is medium to dark red, and will keep for six weeks or more in storage, which is good for an early apple. William's Pride ripens in the summer, seven to eight weeks before Delicious. Ripening can be uneven, and the fruit may occasionally be subject to disorders such as bitter pit and watercore, but this recent introduction is worthy of trial in the home garden.

Numbered Selections

In order to allow advanced breeding selections to be tested widely from the fruit breeding work of the NYS Agricultural Experiment Station at Geneva, the Fruit Testing Association distributes a number of outstanding selections which are still under number. Cornell must retain control over these selections until they have been proven worthy of introduction to the general public, at which time they will be named.

Therefore, these plants are to be grown for test purposes only; you may not sell, give away, distribute or propagate until the selections are named, or until they are authorized to do so by the Department of Horticultural Sciences of the New York State Agricultural Experiment Station. For more information about ordering the selections listed below, contact: The Fruit Testing Association, P.O. Box 462, Geneva, NY 14456.

New York 73334-35. This Liberty x Delicious cross yields good quality, large red striped fruit. The flesh is yellowish, crisp and juicy. The trees are of moderate to high vigor, and are spur-type. The bloom period is midseason, while the harvest period in Geneva is early to mid-October.

New York 74828-12. This good quality apple resembles a McIntosh, while exhibiting an excellent, attractive cherry red color. It ripens about 5 days earlier than McIntosh, and has tender, crisp, juicy, yellowish flesh. The flesh is sweet, sprightly, and slightly McIntosh flavored. The tree is productive and moderately vigorous, blooming in midseason, and the harvest period is in the early season, around mid-September in Geneva.

New York 74840-1. A cross using Empire produced this attractive, highly colored, good quality apple. The fruit stores well and is large, while the flesh is juicy, firm and crisp; it is tart at harvest, becoming more mellow and milder with age. The trees are of moderate vigor and are productive. They bloom in early to midseason and are ready for harvest in the late season, around the middle of October.

New York 75413-30. This is a huge, attractive dark red apple of good quality. The fruit is completely covered with dark red stripes, and the flesh is cream-colored, firm, crisp and juicy. The flavor is sweet and sprightly. The tree is vigorous and productive, blooming early. This good quality, large apple stores well. It ripens in early October, just before Empire.

Prepared by:

Marcia Eames-Sheavly, Extension Support Specialist, Department of Fruit and Vegetable Science, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY 14853

Dr. Susan Brown, Associate Professor, Department of Horticultural Sciences, Agricultural Experiment Station at Geneva, NY 14456

Copyright, Department of Horticulture, Cornell University.

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