March 16, 2010

Contact: Terence Robinson, Cornell University, 315-787-2227

Orchard Improvement Can Boost Yield & Income for NNY Apple Growers

Northern New York -- Apples are grown on nearly 4,000 acres in Northern New York and contribute a farm gate value of $16 million to the regional economy. Although the region has knowledgeable and progressive growers, an extensive infrastructure, and proximity to large markets, Cornell University Horticultural Sciences Professor Terence Robinson says, “To remain competitive in the world apple market, Northern New York apple growers need to continue to modernize their orchards to improve production efficiency and fruit quality.”

With funding from the Northern New York Agricultural Development Program, Robinson has been mentoring the region’s apple growers with the latest Northern New York-specific research data on how using new high value varieties, disease-resistant rootstocks, high planting densities for early production and partial labor mechanization can help them reduce costs and maximize profits.

“This research needed to be conducted in the Northern New York region due to its colder climate and unique growing conditions. The results from high density orchard research conducted elsewhere in New York State are not directly transferable to Northern New York orchards,” Robinson says.

Robinson’s 19-page report “Improved Apple Orchard Management Systems and Rootstocks for Northern NY” – online at http://www.nnyagdev.org/_horticulturecrops.htm - compares the production and fruit quality of five orchard production systems and several new disease-resistant rootstocks with McIntosh and Honeycrisp apple varieties at five northeastern NY farms: Chazy Orchards in Chazy, NY; Everett Fruit Farm, Forrence Orchards and Sullivan Orchards in Peru, NY; Gunnison Orchards in Crown Point, NY.

Robinson says, “The high density tall spindle system has been the most productive in the Champlain Valley, with the highest and earliest production. Production began with a small crop in the second year and very high yields by the fifth year. In 2009 (Year 8 of one research trial), the tall spindle system produced yields of 1,200 to 1,600 bushels per acre.”

While Honeycrisp trees on all rootstocks and systems yielded less than the McIntosh variety, the cumulative crop value of the Honeycrisp yield was four times that of the McIntosh due to higher fruit price and larger fruit size.

“This Northern New York research demonstrated much higher yields than we previously thought possible in Northern New York with the tall spindle system at a relatively young orchard age,” Robinson says. “This high-yielding system when coupled with a high-priced variety like Honeycrisp can dramatically change the orchard profitability potential for new orchards in Northern New York.”

The Northern New York Agricultural Development Program is a farmer-driven research, outreach and technical assistance program that helps regional farmers and growers be more productive and profitable.

The program receives funding from the New York State Legislature through the leadership of Senate Agriculture Committee Chair Darrel J. Aubertine, Assembly Agriculture Chair William Magee, and the long-term support of Senator Elizabeth “Betty” Little. # # #