New York Apple Growers and Cornell University Rename Apple Breeds

New York Apple Growers and Cornell University Rename Apple Breeds

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The apples known as NY1 and NY2 are getting a name change

The NY1 apples are getting a name change on August 1.

New York Apple Growers, LLC and Cornell University will unveil the names of the apple variations, that have up until now only been known as NY1 and NY2, on Thursday, August 1, according to a release.

The apples were developed by Susan Brown, apple breeder and horticulture professor at Cornell University’s who also developed Autumncrisp and Fortune apple varieties. The names for the apples have been developed after extensive consumer research by the New York Apple Growers involving taste tests and surveys.

The unveiling will take place at 12:15 p.m. at Cornell’s annual Fruit Field Days at the New York State Agricultural Experiment Station’s Fruit and Vegetable Research Farm South, located at 1097 Country Road No. 4 in Geneva, New York. The rest of the Fruit Field Day will involve tours of tree fruits as well as grapes, hops, and other fruits.

Who 'owns' the apples? New York's newest varieties require a fee for their 'intellectual property' value

RubyFrost apples, one of New York's newest breeds, hang on the trees at the Apple Acres orchard in LaFayette. Growers are now paying fees to Cornell University for the right to plant and sell these apples.

(Brett Carlsen | The Post-Standard)

In the 1960s, research scientists at Cornell University's agricultural station in Geneva launched a new breed of apple, which they called Empire. It was a hybrid of Red Delicious and MacIntosh, two of the most popular apples in America. It was bred to be juicy but firm, sweet and crunchy.

"It was a good apple, but it was really slow to catch on," said Walt Blackler, who operates Apple Acres, a wholesale grower in LaFayette. "It wasn't until the 1980s that there was enough (grown) to make them known in the market. Then in the 1990s, they were overproduced and flooded the market and that was a big problem.

"That's what we're trying to avoid."

Walt Blackler stands amid some plantings of RubyFrost and SnapDragon apples at Apple Acres in LaFayette. Growers like Blackler have agreed to pay Cornell University fees and royalties for the right to plant these new hybrid varieties. The orchard dog is Tundra.

Blackler tells that story as a way to explain something that seemingly defies business sense. After a century of free access to new hybrids, like Empire, apple growers in New York this year have agreed to pay Cornell fees and royalties for the right to plant and sell the university's two newest varieties: SnapDragon and RubyFrost.

The growers will pay for the young trees that Cornell provides them, then pay a licensing fee for every acre they plant, and send the university a percentage of the revenues from every bushel they sell.

"We'll be paying all along the line," said Blackler, who acknowledged that some of the cost cost will be passed on to consumers. "But we're happy to do it."

Why pay now for something that used to be free?

It's partly because the Cornell deal will help the growers manage the marketing, development and supply of new apple varieties, to avoid the situation that hurt Empire apples for so long, Blackler said. And the deal means the new apples will only be grown in New York.

"In the past, new apples were planted willy nilly," he said. "We need to manage the introduction and promotion. We need to create the demand."

"And," he said, "we're creating a New York exclusive product."

Plus, Cornell promises to put some of its revenues into its apple research and breeding program. Neither Cornell nor the growers could provide a figure for that revenue.

"We think it's going to be positive for us in the short term, for bringing the apples to market, and better in the long run with the apple research," said Blackler, who is treasurer of the new group called New York Apple Growers, the association formed by the growers who have agreed to pay for the rights to SnapDragon and RubyFrost.

This is not the first time Cornell has charged growers based on its control of the "intellectual property rights" for new food varieties - one such agreement came a few years ago for new potato varieties that were developed specifically for the potato chip industry.

But this is the first time it's been done for apples, one of the most iconic foods in Cornell's long breeding history and one that consumers are especially likely to buy as a specific variety. Those looking for SnapDragon and RubyFrost this year, by the way, should keep a sharp lookout - only a hundred or so bushels will be sold this year and they aren't expected in large numbers until the 2015 harvest.

Cornell has been breeding varieties of foods like grapes, berries and apples since the 1890s, but the law that allows research institutions to retain and charge for the intellectual property rights has only been on the books since 1980.

The university is able to apply for patents for breeds it develops and to trademark the names, said Jess Lyga, Cornell's plant varieties & germplasm licensing associate.

But it doesn't arrange the deals to charge for the rights in in every case, she said.

Bottom line: The new variety needs to show that it has a potential market - that it can make money - before the university works on such a deal.

"As something is developed that has possible commercial application, that's when we get involved," Lyga said.

That can take time to figure out.

Brown still crosses different apple varieties to produce a new breed the old fashioned way - using bees to pollinate one variety with another. Modern technology speeds up the process by allowing the researcher to look for DNA markers and other traits that help determine which varieities to cross to achieve specific results - from disease resistance to firm texture.

Once it became apparent that the two new varieties had commercial possibilities, Lyga's office went to work to create the deal that would identify growers who would pay for the rights. "These apples were fast-tracked," she said, noting it still took more than a decade to bring them to market.

The growers got together to create the association called New York Apple Growers. Its sole purpose is to create a "club" whose members will pay Cornell the rights fees. (There is another group, the New York Apple Association, which represents most growers for other purposes). Creating that club to pay rights fees was a first for Cornell, Lyga said.

Until this summer, the two apple varieties Brown's team were working with were known as NY1 and NY2. In a ceremony at the Geneva research station in August, they were christened SnapDragon and RubyFrost.

SnapDragon is an early ripening apple that is described as as sweet and crisp. RubyFrost ripens later in the season and is juicy, a little tart and refreshing. Both were bred to withstand long periods of storage.

If all goes well, they are likely to command premium prices when they come to the market in greater numbers in a few years, Blackler said.

New York's growers are hoping to duplicate the recent success of HoneyCrisp, a crispy yet juicy variety developed at the University of Minnesota. It has been the hottest new breed in recent years - but its rights are not protected. Many New York growers have given it a try.

The projected price for the two new varieties when they fully reach the market in a few years is difficult to pin down, Blackler said, but he suggested HoneyCrisp could be a guide. This year, HoneyCrisp is selling for around $2.49 per pound, compared to about $1.79 per pound for a more common variety like MacIntosh.

"HoneyCrisp are difficult to grow," Blackler said. "Getting the critical mass took a long time. We're hoping to get that critical mass for RubyFrost and SnapDragon in about five years."

Blackler, whose orchard has about 15 different varieties, said he hopes the money that the growers have agreed to pay to Cornell will help with new breakthroughs.

"Weɽ all like to see apples that are disease resistant, but too often those apples just aren't any good," Blackler said.

"We selected these apples (SnapDragon and RubyFrost) because they are good," Blackler said. "We hope people will go for them."

SnapDragon: It's an offspring of Honeycrisp and an unnamed apple in Cornell's breeding program. It's an early ripening variety that is crisp and juicy, and is said to be similar to Jonagold.

RubyFrost: It's a hybrid of Braeburn and Autumn Crisp. It's a late-ripening variety that is tart, juicy and refreshing. Cornell says it will be popular with fans of Empire and Gala.

Availability: Only a few hundred acres across the state are yielding fruit this year, so they will be hard to find. SnapDragons are mostly sold out RubyFrosts will be hitting scattered markets in the next few weeks. Expect to see them more readily available by 2015.

Cornell research orchard seeks the perfect apple

Trees at Cornell University's research orchard this fall are heavy with waxy apples, deep-red, round apples, oblong apples and aromatic apples that smell like autumn.

The thousands of trees here are tended for a single goal: to grow apples with just the right mix of sweetness, tart and crunch.

The orchards, part of the New York State Agricultural Experiment Station, are essentially a 50-acre lab devoted to developing apples that are tasty for consumers and hardy for farmers. The station has released 66 apple varieties over more than a century including Cortland, Macoun and two new entries at farm markets this fall: SnapDragon and RubyFrost.

"I could never be a medical doctor I don't like blood. But I can create," breeder Susan Brown said. "I can manipulate things and create stuff that no one else has seen or tasted, and sometimes it's a home run and sometimes it's a spitter."

Brown, a Cornell professor of agriculture who has been breeding apples since 1990, walked through the apple-dappled rows on a sunny day this week offering test chomps. One apple was juicy but mushy, another exceptionally firm and crisp.

"You would not want to eat this with dentures," she said with a laugh.

Brown's team is looking for crisp apples with a good balance of sugar and acid. It also pays close attention to "volatiles," or the aromas like a hint of cherry or grassiness that contribute so much to an apple's flavor. But researchers also want farmer-friendly apples that hold up well against insects, fire blight and apple scab and during shipping.

One promising variety was rejected because its leaves were prone to spotting and falling off the tree. A green apple that might have been able to compete with the Granny Smith was discarded because it was susceptible to blister spots.

"It's only skin deep," Brown said of the blistered apple, "but consumers are still going to find it objectionable."

The researchers here have access to cutting-edge technology, but the mechanics of their breeding work is similar to what their counterparts have done for generations. Pollen is collected from unopened blossoms and applied to female parts of another tree's flower. It can take four years before a seedling produces fruit ready for tasting.

Researchers try to combine desirable traits from two different apples — like the snappy sweetness of one and the resistance to insects of another. But just like a mom and dad can have children who are very different from each other, new apples can fall far from the tree, figuratively speaking. Research assistant Kevin Maloney says about 95 percent of the seedlings they plant are discarded. The neat rows of trellised trees have gaps where apples that didn't make the cut had grown.

"It's a numbers game. We plant out thousands and thousands of seedling trees," Maloney said. "If they're not exceptional quality or something we can use in the breeding program, they're removed."

Brown has high hopes for their two new apples developed in partnership with the members of New York Apple Growers, which will initially be sold at dozens of farm markets in New York this fall.

SnapDragon is a cross of Honeycrisp with a Jonagold-like hybrid that's easier for farmers to manage. RubyFrost, which ripens later in the fall, has high vitamin C content and resists browning, which is important now that apple slices are such a large part of the retail market.

As picking season for SnapDragon dawns, Brown is already thinking of the next generation apple. She believes she can breed an apple that is resistant to browning. And she thinks she can up an apple's vitamin C content to the level of an orange.

"I've already made the next generation, crossing SnapDragon and RubyFrost," she said.


SnapDragon apples are best suited for raw applications as their juicy flesh is showcased when consumed straight, out-of-hand. The variety is heavily marketed as a children’s snack due to its sweet flavor, and the flesh can be sliced and served with cheese, peanut butter, or caramel. SnapDragon apples can also be chopped and mixed into green and fruit salads, sliced and stirred into overnight oats, oatmeal, or porridge, or blended into juices and smoothies. In addition to fresh applications, SnapDragon apples can be simmered into jams, relishes, and sauces, cooked and served over roasted meats, or baked into bread, pies, tarts, cakes, and pies. SnapDragon apples pair well with nuts such as walnuts, almonds, pecans, and pistachios, cheeses such as cheddar, fontina, feta, and goat, thinly sliced meats including bacon and prosciutto, cranberry, citrus, butterscotch, honey, cinnamon, raisins, and broccoli. Whole SnapDragon apples have a long shelf life and can be stored 4 to 8 weeks when unwashed in the refrigerator's crisper drawer.

Pamela Fix

Bookkeeper | Fix Brothers, Inc., Hudson, NY

What do you do when you love working in the outdoors and supplying amazing fruit to customers? You work for Fix Brothers, Inc. just like Pamela Fix. Pamela works as the bookkeeper for the farm and has the pleasure of working with her family in all capacities—secretary, packhouse manager, and more. A 5th generation farm and expert grower of more than 15 apple varieties, Pamela believes in the value of family farms. Her biggest hope for farming is that family farms can continue to operate and flourish.

Pamela’s favorite apple variety: Evercrisp


Our research is focused primarily on applying fundamental principles from chemistry, biology, microbiology, engineering and the social sciences to the conversion of raw agricultural products into foods and beverages for human consumption. We also study the safety, quality, nutritional and environmental consequences of these conversions with the aim of providing the world with an affordable, safe and sustainable food supply of high nutritional quality.

Research in the department is closely integrated with our teaching and extension programs. Students, both graduate and undergraduate, conduct research projects under the supervision of faculty members. This research experience helps students develop their critical thinking and problem solving skills and fosters a strong aspiration for lifelong learning.

Faculty with extension responsibilities translate and transfer research-based knowledge to our stakeholders in New York State and beyond. In addition, stakeholder input informs and inspires many of our research projects.

The rational design and synthesis of emulsions to fabricate multi-compartment emulsion-based vehicles for regulating lipid digestion and bioavailability in gastrointestinal tract to understand the molecular and physical factors that impact bioavailability and stability of lipid and lipophilic food ingredients and develop effective emulsion-based systems and encapsulation technologies to enhance ingredient stability within food matrix.

The Alcaine Research Group focuses on driving dairy sustainability through microbiology. Our research investigates the application of bioprotection methods to control foodborne pathogens and extend dairy product shelf life, thus reducing dairy waste. We also explore novel fermentations to upcycle underutilized dairy co-products into valued-added beverages and ingredients that can improve both environmental and economic sustainability of the dairy industry.

The Batt Lab's research focuses on protein engineering and expression of recombinant immunotherapeutics micro-/nanofabrication of integrated sensor devices synthesis of biologically inspired nanostructures for fdvanced materials processing.

The Dando lab studies the neurotransmitter interactions and signaling events which occur within the mammalian taste system, utilizing techniques from physiology, molecular biology and behavioral science.

The lab is interested in a variety of research topics that span from understanding fundamental aspects of eukaryotic cell biology to collaborating with the fermented beverage industry on applied projects.

The Goddard lab leverages technologies at the intersection of food science and materials science to modify food contact materials to improve the safety, quality and sustainability of our food supply. Current research foci include non-migratory active packaging, antimicrobial/nonfouling coatings and biocatalytic materials.

Dr. Liu’s research program focuses on diet and cancer, the effects of functional foods/nutraceuticals on chronic disease risks, and bioactive compounds in natural products and herbal remedies for anticancer and antiviral activity.

Viticulture and enology research program promotes sustainable, environmentally sound practices tailored to local growing conditions and network with an international community.

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The lab studies how toxic chemical compounds in food have an effect on our health.

Our research focuses on the design and fabrication of biosensors for the detection of pathogenic organisms, allergens, adulterants and other analytes of interest. The nature of our research is highly interdisciplinary, merging technologies from the fields of nanobiotechnology, microfabrication, molecular genetics, biochemistry and material science.

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The Sacks lab studies how pre- and post-harvest factors affect the organoleptic properties of agricultural products, and particularly wines and juices.

The Tako lab conducts multidisciplinary research that links the research fields of food science and nutrition in order to better understand how diet and physiological status affect intestinal functionality, morphology and the microbiome and overall health. Beyond research, our lab is interested in training future generations of scientists and educating the public about the value of scientific research and knowledge (both basic and applied research).

Through innovative research, education and outreach, improve the microbial safety and quality of the global food supply.

Our research program focuses on the enhancement of the microbiological safety and quality of fresh and processed fruits and vegetables for the consumers of New York State and the United States. Non-thermal processing methods are being investigated for their potential application to various foods at different stages of food production. These non-thermal food processing treatments enhance the quality and are being evaluated for their effectiveness in achieving a safe food product.

The New York State Department of Health and Cornell University have been selected to lead the nation's newest Integrated Food Safety Center of Excellence as part of a joint venture to strengthen foodborne illness surveillance and investigations.

The Northeast Dairy Foods Research Center (NEDFRC) is a cooperative research and extension effort between Cornell University and the University of Vermont.

Available This Fall: 3 New Apples That Will Rival the Reigning Honeycrisp

It's almost apple season, so keep an eye out for these new varietals.

Walk through the neat, green rows of apple trees at Linvilla Orchards, the 335-acre, family-run farm outside of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and you’ll spot a little white sign that reads, “New Exciting Apples!” Follow the arrow, and find more signs that mirror the sentiment with increasing fervor: “You’re getting close! Don’t give up now! It’s worth the reward!” The apples at the end of this Wonderland-esque trail are called CrimsonCrisp, and they’re some of an emerging variety of the fruit that apple growers are betting on to replace the unofficial apple of America’s eye.

Honeycrisp apples were created at the University of Minnesota and first introduced in 1991, but took another 15 years or so to go mainstream. The crunchy, sweet-tart fruit known for its super juicy bite has skyrocketed to become one of the country’s most popular apples, beating out thousands of other varieties for prime position at the supermarket—including long-established classics like Gala, Red Delicious, and Golden Delicious𠅊nd have a premium price tag to match. On the University’s website, you can read about how Honeycrisp was lauded as one of the top 25 innovations of the decade in 2006, and on the same page, the apple is casually referred to as a "national treasure."

Linvilla’s farm manager, Norm Schultz, has witnessed the rise of the fruit over his twenty year-career at the orchard. “The supermarkets only started carrying Honeycrisp about ten years ago, and it just exploded,’ he says. “They really did taste that good. They’re different [from other apples]—there’s a bigger cell inside the fruit, so when you bite into it, the cells break and it releases more juice.” But as distinctively delicious as they are, the apples can be a tad difficult and delicate, too, with a short, three-week picking window, and a relatively little yield, according to the farmer. “You touch it, it bruises, and it falls from the tree easily,” says Schultz.

While Linvilla grows 37 varieties of apples over 26 acres — including Fuji, Pink Lady, Zestar, and yes, some Honeycrisp—the farmer is constantly on the lookout for the next Big Apple. Schultz taps into a network of other farmers and plant breeders to learn about the latest varieties, and once he chooses one�tween the two years it can take for the baby trees to arrive after ordering, to the sometimes five years it can take to cultivate and grow—it can take several years to bring them to fruition, and into the baskets of Linvilla’s customers.

Setting the Stage

Researchers from Cornell University sought to study the relationship between the agricultural industries within their local economy. Their specific focus was “less on the actual levels of impact, but rather on the process and what practitioners need to consider to appropriately estimate economic contributions, avoid double counting, and interpret the results.” The study was completed in collaboration with the Cornell Cooperative Extension (CCE). The Cornell Cooperative Extension is a program which focuses on “agriculture, food system, and rural-based businesses and associations. The program is a resource for people desiring to form a cooperative or learn more about the unique nature of a cooperative-structured business.” The research was supported by a grant from the New York Apple Association (NYAA), a commodity association dedicated to researching and promoting the apple industry in New York state.

Recipe for Success: Brew Your Own Biofertilizer

Have you thought about switching to a biofertilizer? Full spectrum biofertilizers like “Super Magro” have simple ingredients and can prevent yield loss. Through plant nutrition, biofertilizers reduce disease, pest, and physiological stress, to maximize your crops’ performance. After brewing the base recipe, Super Magro can be tailored by adding specific mineral salts to fit your needs.

Cornell Small Farms’ own Shaun Bluethenthal, an agronomist and research farmer describes the process of how to make Super Magro biofertilizer.

The base formula for Super Magro combines seven key components, which ferment over four days. The result is a nutrient-rich liquid, complete with organic and amino acids, and essential minerals in plant-available form.
Base Formula *

  • Untreated water
  • Fresh cow dung
  • Molasses
  • Whey (or milk)
  • S. cerevisiae (yeast)
  • Wood ash
  • Rockdust

Shaun Bluethenthal fertilizing plants in a high tunnel. Courtesy of Small Farms Program.

* see supporting documents for complete formula and schedule
The beauty of this recipe, and biofertilizers in general, is that they harness naturally occurring microbial processes and use them to convert essential mineral ingredients into available plant nutrients. Specialized rumen-microbes, delivered via the cow dung, use the readily available sugars in the molasses to perform anaerobic fermentation. After four days of fermentation, context-specific salts can be added to the mixture. Super Magro uses nine specific salts, each of which plays critical roles in plant health, to create a broad-spectrum complement of essential minerals.
Now that you have an understanding of the mechanisms behind this type of biofertilizer production, you can tailor-make your own fertilizers specific to the needs and stages of growth of your crops.

Since the recipe is scalable and requires no outside energy source for its manufacture, it can be a great fertilizer option for small farms, homesteads, and even urban farmers. During this type of biofertilizer process, gasses expelled through the air-lock during the fermentation process have no detectable odor. Also, at the completion of a successful fermentation, the end product no longer has a raw manure smell. This bonus is especially useful for farmers and growers that have neighbors within close proximity.

In addition to its robust nutritional profile, Super Magro is also a cost-effective alternative ( > $2.50 per acre) to commercial fertilizers. Some farmers may already have many of the ingredients on hand. Even if you don’t, the ingredients are common enough that they are readily available and inexpensive.
Read more about Super Magro here.

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