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Research Project: Innovative Strategies and Methods for Improving the Management, Availability, and Utility of Plant Genetic Resource Collections

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Title: Heritage apple cultivars grown in homesteads, nurseries and orchards in Wyoming

Author
item MAGBY, JONATHAN - University Of Wyoming
item Volk, Gayle
item MILLER, STEVE - University Of Wyoming

Submitted to: Journal of American Pomological Society
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 11/5/2019
Publication Date: 5/28/2019
Citation: Magby, J., Volk, G.M., Miller, S. 2019. Heritage apple cultivars grown in homesteads, nurseries and orchards in Wyoming. Journal of American Pomological Society. 73(2):95-101. http://www.pubhort.org/aps/73/v73_n2_a2.htm.

Interpretive Summary: Heritage apple trees have survived for up to a century on the homesteads, nurseries, and orchards of Wyoming. This research sought to identify the major cultivars and nursery sources of Wyoming apple planting stock between 1870 and 1940 by reviewing Wyoming state agricultural bulletins and nursery catalogs. Many of the apple cultivars that were identified in the Wyoming state agricultural bulletins originated from states with harsh winter climates, including Russia, Wisconsin, and Minnesota. We identified 'Wealthy' as one of the most commonly mentioned cultivars, which corresponds to our previous genetic fingerprinting analyses that determined that 'Wealthy' is prevalent in the Wyoming landscape. This research informs current efforts to conserve the cultivar diversity of Wyoming's heritage apple trees and make those genetic resources publicly available to individuals in Wyoming.

Technical Abstract: Apples (Malus domestica) played a significant role in America’s westward expansion. Heritage apple trees can still be found in old orchard plantings and abandoned homesteads that were established during the 19th and early 20th centuries. In Wyoming, there are reports of 29 cities that grew apples from the beginning (1870) to the rapid decline (1940s) of apple production. According to our review of the literature, 218 apple cultivars were tested or successfully grown in Wyoming’s cold, windy and drought-prone climate between 1870 and 1940. Eighty-two of the 218 cultivars reported in Wyoming Agricultural Bulletins (WGB) and University of Wyoming Experimental Fruit Farm Station Bulletins (EFFB) originated from Russia, Wisconsin and Minnesota. Wealthy was the most frequently mentioned cultivar in the historic literature and was prized for being successful across Wyoming’s rugged landscape. Although trees from the 1800s and early 1900s can still be found in Wyoming, many of the largest orchards have experienced substantial losses over the last half century. Current conservation efforts seek to capture the cultivar diversity of Wyoming’s heritage apple varieties.