SkillCult has a great new video and blog post about the results of his apple experiments. This won't be a surprise to folks around here: the seedling yielded an excellent apple and not the spitter that is predicted by the general wisdom that you must grow hundreds of seedlings to get a good apple.
Yes, that apple is just a single data point. But it lends credence to the idea that by carefully choosing your seedlings and/or hybrid parents, you greatly improve the odds of ending up with at least a decent apple. I expect further results to be published on that blog soon.
Anyone familiar with the Antonovka apple should know that some apples CAN come true. This probably took hundreds if not thousands of years of planting seeds from the best apples.
I admit, I read The Botany of Desire and used to believe it was foolish to play that kind of botanical Russian Rullet. Starting with good stock increases your odds. And including apples like Antonovka which do come true also increases your odds.
My project thread Agriculture collects solar energy two-dimensionally; but silviculture collects it three dimensionally.
I am just returning from working and learning in india where they have a 10,000 year history of sustainable agriculture. i was planting seeds in my case for trees such as mango because they are more resilient -- drought hardy, etc.-- and that is increasingly becoming important here. besides having potentially a spitter, there is an additional problem of increasing time to fruiting. Narsana Koppola, near Hyderabad in India did not have any spitters in his mango trees, had all great tasting trees. he did have fruiting delayed from the 5 years for nursery stock to 8 to in one case 15 years. here in the states i have been told that planting with an autumn olive tree helps apple trees to fruit in 5 years.
It should be borne in mind that the long odds are for a tree that will meet the criteria for a modern commercial eating apple, which encompass many characteristics irrelevant to the permaculturist/homesteader. There are appealing textures and flavors that will never pass commercial muster solely because it's been decided by the commercial apple gods that all eating apples must be crisp, hard, sweet, and juicy (as well as being long-keeping and suitable for shipping to another hemisphere). We have myriad uses for apples which don't meet these standards--drying, feeding hogs, cider, vinegar, etc. Prior to this video, Stephen did a blog post regarding apple breeding ( http://skillcult.com/blog/2013/04/03/apple-breeding-part-1-everyone-knows-you-cant-do-it-right ) wherein he recounted an 1899 breeding experiment at Geneva, NY in which 106 progeny yielded 13 varieties worthy of naming, and another 14 of further investigation. That's about 25%, which just goes to show how much narrower the criteria have become today. The takeaway is that the odds aren't so bad after all, as long as expectations are reasonable. We need more plant sex--cloning is preventing genetic progress and stifling biodiversity.
SkillCult is an impeccable resource. I'm an information connoisseur, and Steven Edholm doesn't have much competition when it comes to the quality of what he produces. Whether it's burning lime, tanning hides, growing potato onions, or making biochar, he's on it and explains procedures with clarity and intelligence. His analysis and ideas are awesome. I recommend the site to anyone who's interested in cutting through the hype and drilling down to the marrow of a subject. Don't expect the Cliff notes; you'll get the full treatment. Two thumbs up!
"I must Create a System, or be enslaved by another Man's"--William Blake
My PEP Badge Tracker: An easier way to track your PEP Badge Progress