I'm thinking of making hard ciderapple varieties the focus of the tree crops on my farm. VaTech has provided some great research. Has anyone tried growing cider varieties in the humidity of the Deep South (GA FL SC AL MS LA)? Does it have an ill effect on apple characteristics for cidery (sugars, tannins)?
I saw someone use that slide deck or essentially the same at CiderCon 2014. Diane Flynt at Foggy Ridge and Chuck Shelton at Albemarle Ciderworks are the biggest names I know working in that climate. The VATech crowd is probably your closest help in the ag schools. There are good programs at Cornell, Vermont and WSU, but they won't have the regional help you need. Mine certainly doesn't know anything about cider, but I'm in the driest state in the land in more ways than one. In your area, I'd ask at Big Horse Creek Farm for advice. And I haven't the need for it, but there is a book, Old Southern Apples (which you probably have seen) that should have some useful data to extrapolate from.
Very little has been done on separating the cider apples into low chill varieties, so some trialing will be required. And there are some regional specialties that could make very good cider, but aren't on the radar. The limbertwigs for example. Tom Burford in Virginia is the southern expert on apples, he might have some ideas if you have the money to hire a consultant. Most new cideries opening up are scrounging for apples, working with what they can get. Good apples are the bottleneck for the industry right now.
As you are researching varieties, think about your rootstock requirements, since you will be getting custom trees regardless. Your state ag extension might be of some help there. There aren't cider trees in nurseries to be bought. That's the downside of this tremendous growth in cider. The upside is that the costs are lower and the demand is there. And the major players in industry understand that the potential is so huge that it makes sense to help everyone do well, more good producers selling good cider helps everyone right now.
Thanks for your detailed response Ann. Funny that you mention Tom Burford. I am attending the Cider Makers forum at Albemarle Cider Works next weekend. I want to make it to Foggy Ridge at some point too. I have not read Lee Calhoun's book, but I am planning to. I am reading Burford's book now. I am also trying to figure out how to get ahold of Joyce Neighbor's book. Ms. Neighbors collected varieties around AL.
Location: Torrey, UT; 6,840'/2085m; 7.5" precip; 125 frost-free days
Jealous. Tell Tom we hope to see him in Torrey if he ever comes back to Capitol Reef NP. We met him at a Monticello apple tasting before we had planted even one tree. He is a quintessential southern gentleman. Chuck Shelton was astonishingly kind as well when we visited Albemarle, so you are in good hands.