Good Fruit Grower

August 1

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52 AUGUST 2015 Good Fruit Grower G rowers of two new New York apple varieties are having problems meeting their marketing goals, especially for the sweeter, Honeycrisp-like apple named SnapDragon. SnapDragon (NY 1) and RubyFrost (NY 2) were bred at Cornell University in Geneva, New York, espe- cially for New York growers. The problem with SnapDragon is the tree is even weaker growing than its Honeycrisp parent. Trees in the second leaf are not ready to bear any fruit and trees even in their third year must be highly restricted in the number of fruit allowed on each tree. This has slowed down the introduction of the variety to retail stores. There was a lively discussion about that during the Lake Ontario Summer Fruit Tour in Wayne County, New York, in June. Growers were visiting Bob and Dave Coene's Windmill Farms orchard, looking at trees that were a full year smaller than theory says they should be. The major conversation was between two people: Dr. Terence Robinson, the Cornell University pomologist who's the leading developer, advocate, and "philoso- pher" for the tall-spindle growing system and a huge fan of SnapDragon, and Mark Russell, the Niagara County grower who is the new chairman of the marketing com- mittee for the grower organization that has exclusive rights to grow and market SnapDragon and RubyFrost. The organization growing the apples, originally named NYAG, for New York Apple Growers, was recently renamed Crunch Time Apple Growers. Robinson offered some practical advice for SnapDragon growers—but also pointed to the conserva- tive approach of the 140-grower organization that grows them. First, the criticism Robinson said the goals—to plant 950 acres of SnapDragon and RubyFrost with about 1,000 trees per acre and market about 500,000 bushels of each variety each year—were way too conservative. "You should shoot for 5 million bushels," he said. "If you believe in a product, grow it. SnapDragon is as good as any apple in the market. "If you go bigger, you can hope to compete against Cosmic Crisp. If you don't, you'll have a niche apple that may be swamped in the market by Cosmic Crisp." Cosmic Crisp is the apple developed by Washington State University and introduced as WA 38, a proprietary variety to be produced, initially, only by Washington State growers. Russell told Good Fruit Grower that the overwhelm- ing concern of the growers who decided to invest in SnapDragon and RubyFrost was that the apples be prof- itable, and the path to that was to control supply, quality, and price. While initial production goals were modest, the plan was to "listen to the market and evaluate before going to a next step." The Crunch Time Apple Growers were trying a new marketing model as well and wanted to make sure it works. "We're not a one-desk club apple, and we're not multi-regional either. Both these things make us unique," Russell said. SnapDragon LACKS VIGOR New variety has a snappy flavor, but is no dragon when it comes to tree growth. by Richard Lehnert RICHARD LEHNERT/GOOD FRUIT GROWER Mark Russell, left, and Terence Robinson exchange views about growing and marketing SnapDragon, while David Coene (center), the orchard's owner, catches the advice about how to manage this slow-growing block. In its second leaf, it looks a year behind in size. EMSPRING BENEFITS ADVISORS Isn't it time to get strategic about your employee benefits plan? B E L L E V U E | YA K I M A | S P O K A N E Pat Leahy, MBA 877-550-0088 ext 107 Committed to Dedicated Service & Quality Trees For 76 Years & Counting 800-654-5854 Hickman: 19701 Lake Road Hickman, CA 95323 209-874-1821 Reedley: 21200 E. Dinuba Ave. Reedley, CA 93654 559-638-6675

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