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USDA ARS Plant Genetic Resources Unit, Geneva NY New York State Agricultural Experiment Station
A Bit of History:
The Geneva? Apple Rootstock Breeding program was initiated in 1968 by Dr. James Cummins and Dr. Herb Aldwinckle, with the objective of developing rootstock genotypes that increased orchard productivity and reduced pesticide input. Dr. Cummins led the program until his retirement in 1993. In 1998 the Cornell University rootstock breeding program was converted to a joint breeding program with the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) with a USDA plant breeder as the lead scientist (currently Dr. Fazio) and with several Cornell scientists as cooperators. From the 30 year effort in apple rootstock breeding a large number disease resistant, productive selections have been developed and are in the process of being delivered to the industry.
To develop new productive, disease resistant apple rootstocks using modern selection techniques.
Why is this research important?
This research impacts all U.S. apple producing regions. It improves productivity, safety and survivability of apple orchards. It is part of a national effort to increase the efficiency of labor and other inputs in the orchards through the application of new technologies.
What are the benefits of this research?
Increased productivity means more return per acre to the grower and affordable prices to the consumer.
Reduced size of apple trees by dwarfing apple rootstocks means fewer pesticides needed to treat the orchard, safer conditions for orchard workers.
Disease resistance to soil borne apple pathogens means less use of methyl bromide or other fumigants that have undesirable side effects on nature and more eco-friendly orchards.
Disease resistance to the devastating fire blight disease means survival of entire orchards and less antibiotics used to combat it.
What can the program deliver to the industry in the next 2 years and 5 years?
In the next 2 years the program is poised to deliver five new productive apple rootstocks to U.S. growers that are resistant to fire blight and soil borne diseases. In addition in the next five years it will deliver research into genotypes that are amenable to mechanization and labor efficiency.
Proper funding will increase competitiveness of U.S. apple growers in the next 50 years.
These two trees of the variety Crispen (Mutzu) have been planted at the same time but have different root systems. The dwarfing root system is more productive, precocious, disease resistant and requires less pesticide and labor.