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Permie Orchard: The Importance of Cultivar Choice

 
D. Logan
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I have a bit of a love for old and exceptionally rare varieties of plants, but I was wondering how the choice of cultivar affects the permie orchard, if at all. Modern varieties of fruit trees seem like they need a lot more pampering most of the time. Do you find that using certain cultivars makes a large difference? Diversity is probably the name of the game so I would expect a large number of different trees of each type. Old and new. I somewhat assume that the older varieties would do better in this sort of orchard, but I don't have the experience to back that supposition up.
 
Mike Haych
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You want varieties that are pest and disease resistant. To a certain extent the impact of pests can be minimized by taking a Michael Phillips holistic approach. Disease resistance is a bit tougher. Look for apple varieties that are resistant to apple scab, fire blight, powdery mildew, and the juniper rusts (including cedar-apple rust, cedar-quince rust, and cedar-hawthorn rust) - http://www.cumminsnursery.com/disease.htm. For pears, fire blight is the big disease problem.

With apples, there's the added problem of modern apples (1970 onward) having increasingly concentrated genetics. 'McIntosh', 'Golden Delicious', 'Jonathan', 'Cox's Orange Pippin', and 'Red Delicious' show up in many of the cultivars released since 1970 - https://web.archive.org/web/20140605222328/http://journal.ashspublications.org/content/121/5/773.full.pdf

 
Stefan Sobkowiak
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D. Logan wrote:I have a bit of a love for old and exceptionally rare varieties of plants, but I was wondering how the choice of cultivar affects the permie orchard, if at all. Modern varieties of fruit trees seem like they need a lot more pampering most of the time. Do you find that using certain cultivars makes a large difference? Diversity is probably the name of the game so I would expect a large number of different trees of each type. Old and new. I somewhat assume that the older varieties would do better in this sort of orchard, but I don't have the experience to back that supposition up.

D you are correct about the modern cultivars. They were mostly developed under a blanket of pampering not the real world. Except for the PRI series which were developed with disease resistance in mind. Old cultivars (pre-1920 say) were real world situation cultivars and not sprayed. Some are more disease resistant and others not so much.
Yes the one you choose makes a HUGE difference at least regarding disease resistance. Old and newer do well as long as they have a large or total disease resistance. There are usually disease resistant lists for each fruit growing regions put out by ag agencies.
 
Grant Peters
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Disease and pest and drought tolerant are qualities I need in my trees. How else would you select cultivars? Popularity, my taste? There is so much out there. I am a beginner too, so starting from seed is would help on my first 3 desired traits?
 
Cj Sloane
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Grant Peters wrote:Disease and pest and drought tolerant are qualities I need in my trees. How else would you select cultivars?


I'm a big fan of spreadsheets so I made one for apple cultivars. In addition to disease & pest resistance I have columns for when they ripen, the coldest recommended zone, type of apple (all purpose, fresh eating/dessert, storage, cooking, high flavor, cider), annual, productive, precocious.

When I'm ready to add a few new trees I filter by whatever seems underrepresented.
 
Dan Tutor
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Fwiw, I like to take scions from old untended trees that produce good crops of fruit on a regular basis. I'm lucky in that I live in a long-inhabited area of the northeast where it's hard to throw a stone in any direction and not be near an apple tree, so I pay attention when I'm driving around in the fall and make mental notes for grafting time.
 
Ann Torrence
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Key is knowing your local pests/problems. Plum curculio is simply not an issue here, but codling moth is. We are looking for resistance to fire blight as well. Some of that is cultivar, some rootstock. We chose a rootstock for our new plantings that is an old school choice, replaced in the east because there are better ones resistant to collar rot, but the MM106 is better for our alkaline soil and we don't have the rain to bring on collar rot. As a result, there isn't going to be a best practices permie cultivar list. There may be some overly delicate varieties to avoid everywhere, but you need regional data to choose what will work for you. I only wish it were easier to find. I can't tell you the hours I have spent researching cultivars for our project. I still haven't found anyone who knows what apples the Mormon pioneers brought to Utah, and I've been looking for those data points since 2011, and I live 10 miles from a heritage orchard under the conservation of the NPS!

Also critical is understanding your pollination times, data which is hard to find for some varieties. Mostly what we are hoping for is that even if the dates vary, the order is relatively constant from region to region so if an Ashmead's Kernel blooms about the same time as a Roxbury Russet in New England, we will have both in bloom here, even if the actual dates are 2 weeks later.

@Grant, another thing to consider is fruit ripening dates. You want it to ripen in time (we won't ever ripen a Granny Smith here, our season is too short), but earlier ripening apples tend not to store well. So we have a few summer apples to get the season started, but not too many because they aren't keepers. We have loads of Esopus Spitzenburg, an apple that supposedly improves in storage.

All that said, this is the first year we could reasonable expect apples on any of our trees and we had a 20 deg freeze right as blossom time. So far, we have found fruit on only one Redfield (out of 12), Pristine (a modern apple) and maybe Calville de Blanc. I need to go survey the Roxburys again, but I suspect we lost those too. This massive up-and-down temperature swings of spring that seem more and more common these days are a new thing to select for if you believe climate change is real and if any of us want fruit in the future.

 
John Saltveit
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Nutrition is another example. Several people mentioned that modern apples have genetic problems. Some aren't very nutritious. Crabapples are more nutritious than apples. If you eat Golden Delicious, you are more likely to get diabetes afterwards, not less. The nutrition is in the skin of the apple, so if you put toxins on it, you are putting toxins in the nutritious part of the apple.
John S
PDX OR
 
Stefan Sobkowiak
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Ann Torrence wrote:Key is knowing your local pests/problems. Plum curculio is simply not an issue here, but codling moth is.

Ann I think you saw the film. The container trap we developped works REALLY well against codling moths. Catches so many that we have to refill the solution during the season since the molasses water mix gets thick with moths and then the new ones don't drown. 1:1 molasses to water in a UV stable container with 3/4 inch holes to limit the size of moths captured.
 
Ann Torrence
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Stefan Sobkowiak wrote:
Ann I think you saw the film. The container trap we developped works REALLY well against codling moths. Catches so many that we have to refill the solution during the season since the molasses water mix gets thick with moths and then the new ones don't drown. 1:1 molasses to water in a UV stable container with 3/4 inch holes to limit the size of moths captured.

Stefan, our DVD came last week. My husband and I watched it, took notes, stopped it to discuss how to apply various advice to our arid system, and scheduled to watch it again! I missed the codling moth trap-that sounds incredible.

Can you recommend a couple pollinator cultivars to incorporate to make sure we have good coverage. I tried to get only mid-season and later, but no one really knows how different cultivars will perform here. I have Geneva, Snowdrift and Chestnut crab (1 each) in one acre, but I'd like to put something with an extended bloom time in the other parcel as well. Something good for cider is a plus.
 
Stefan Sobkowiak
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Ann Torrence wrote:
Stefan, our DVD came last week. My husband and I watched it, took notes, stopped it to discuss how to apply various advice to our arid system, and scheduled to watch it again! I missed the codling moth trap-that sounds incredible.

Can you recommend a couple pollinator cultivars to incorporate to make sure we have good coverage. I tried to get only mid-season and later, but no one really knows how different cultivars will perform here. I have Geneva, Snowdrift and Chestnut crab (1 each) in one acre, but I'd like to put something with an extended bloom time in the other parcel as well. Something good for cider is a plus.

Ann if you have enough, ie at least 10 cultivars, don't worry about early, late ... By planting NAP's or equivalent with other fruit species you will automatically get a mix of cultivars that are more than likely compatible. In fact we held a course at the farm with a French expert Dr. Evelyne Leterme and her observation was that we have TOO MUCH pollination. We should thin our fruit trees to prevent overbearing. We have never thinned. We have so many pollinators and cultivars of the same fruit that we get too much of a good thing. Crabapples are a good insurance we have a few as well.
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