One of the hardest things about growing tree fruit is thinning it. It goes against ones nature to grow a tree and put all that time and effort in just to pull off fruit before it is ready to eat. It is also one of the more important aspects to growing Quality Fruit. We usually will thin a little when apples are about nickel size and then wait for the “June Drop”. June fruit drop refers to the natural tendency of fruit trees to shed some of their immature fruits. Fruit trees will set more flowers than they need for a crop to offset losses from weather or other cultural factors. According to Purdue University Consumer Horticulture, “Only one bloom in 20 is needed for a good crop on a full-blossoming apple tree.”

What Causes June Fruit Drop?

Fruit trees set fruit so that they can produce seed. Too large a crop will strain the tree’s resources and result in smaller fruits, possibly of lesser quality. So the tree protects itself and its seed by thinning the crop, once it senses weather and growing conditions are stabile. We have found that mother nature still leaves way to many apples on the tree so we must go through and manually thin the crop, hand picking into 5 gallon buckets. We like to do this when they are smaller than a golf ball.  By collecting the fruit instead of leaving it on the ground, we help to break the life cycle of fruit damaging insects and pest. This is one part to IPM or Integrated Pest Management.KIMG0080.JPG

Why Thin The Fruit?

  1. 1.Bigger Fruit Less fruit means that those that are left will develop to be bigger
  2. 2. Better Fruit By thinning you will increase the sugars (brix level) and have more nutrient dense produce
  3. Annual Bearing  Many trees will become biennial bearing if allowed to carry a big fruit load. Big crop now then no crop next year. It is natures way of achieving balance.
  4. Health of the Tree. Many branches cannot take the weight of a fully developed apple load, especially the tip bearers which have fruit primarily on the ends of the branches

Here is a picture of a young apple that would have snapped off branches if it were not supported7-23-13 Little apple tree support

While this tree is not overloaded look at the support required!


Matt Scott-Joynt/M and Y Newsgency Ltd 23/09/13: Paul Barnett (40) examines one of the two hundred and fifty different varieties of apple that grow on an apple tree in his garden in Chidham, near Chichester in West Sussex. Paul has been grafting different kinds of apple onto the tree since 1989.

Thinning is as much an art as it is a science.  Start by removing the smallest, misshapen, bruised or those with pest damage. Apples grow in a cluster of 4-5 which should normally be thinned to 1 or 2. As a rule of thumb it takes 40-50 leaves to support 1 apple.


We have always assumed the modern apple was a cross of several wild species of Malus. Here’s an old article, from 2001, on the origins of the apple. There’s been more recent research, but this is still interesting.
The Garden
June, 2001

We may never know where the Garden of Eden was situated, but the origins of its most famous fruit – the apple – may have been discovered. Apples are so familiar in Britain that we assume they have always been part of our flora. Yet there is only one species of apple native to the British Isles, the spiny, wholly inedible Malus sylvestris. It is quite distinct in flavour, shape and genetic makeup for the eating apple, M. Domestica, which has been grown here since at least the Roman era. Botanists have nevertheless assumed that the domestic apple was a hybrid of crosses between the wild species that exist in northern temperate parts of the world.

This long-held ‘hybridization’ assumption has been challenged by the work over the last four years of botanist Barrie Juniper. Together with colleagues at Oxford University’s Department of Plant Sciences he has shown that the hybrid theory is almost certainly false and that the true genetic ancestors of all the apples we eat today seems to be a small population of a single species still growing in the remote Ili Valley on the northern slopes of the Tien Shan (the Heavenly Mountains) right on the border between northeast China and the former Soviet republic of Kazakhstan. He has also arrived at a plausible account of how, over perhaps the last 4.5 million years, this apple evolved within its mountain homeland to become larger and sweeter and, finally, how it was carried into western Europe by traders perhaps as early as the Neolithic period some 6,000 years ago.

Barrie explains that two unrelated factors in the last decade made these achievements possible. First, his department became equipped for sophisticated DNA comparison work. Second, the Russians and Chinese stopped nuclear testing in that area, allowing Barrie to launch two expeditions to hitherto inaccessible areas of the newly independent Kazakhstan.

One of the group, geneticist Julian Robinson, has been using DNA analysis to assess differences and similarities between Malus species, taking samples from pressed herbarium specimens and live material found in the Oxford Botanic Garden. ‘If they had assumed anything at all, botanists had assumed the apple came from some vague, undefined place in Central Asia and was crossed with one or more wild European species,’ said Barrie. The results of the analysis were something of a surprise therefore: far from containing genetic sequences from several species, it appears that the genetic material of only one species closely resembles what is known today as Malus domestica: M. Sieversii, a species of wild crab apple that replaces M. Sylvestris in Central Asia. ‘We came to the conclusion,’ Julian says, ‘that in all likelihood M. Domestica originated in Central Asia.’

Of all the regions where wild apples grow, south central China has the greatest number of different species. Although there are more than 20 true wild species of apple in southern, central and western China, most have small fruits, no bigger than a cherry. How then,Barrie asked himself, did they evolve into the big, red, juicy fruit that we enjoy today?

In search of paradise
Barrie began with a trip in autumn 1997 to Uzbekistan, north of Afghanistan, on which basis he led Julian Robinson and student biologist Thomas Ralis on their first expedition into Kazakhstan the following summer (funded by the Leverhulme and Merlin Trusts). Flying into the regional capital Alma-Ata or Almaty, meaning ‘father of apples’, they had, naively, expected to see wild apples growing in abundance, but instead of forests found scrubland in the country’s central region. This low vegetation of grass and small shrubs is the result of several thousand years of grazing by goats. More recent environmental change was caused by Stalin’s and Khrushchev’s attempts to introduce large-scale irrigated agriculture in the area.

Yet the Kazakh people with whom Barrie and his team spoke described fruit forests; local information suggested they drive northeast. With guides, they crossed some 970km (600 miles) of border country formerly frequented only by Russian and Chinese military, armed to the teeth, to reach the lower slopes of Dzhungarskiy Alatau, a string of mountains separated from the main Tien Shan range by the Ili Valley. They arrived in the dark to stay with a homestead family who combined farming with semi-military patrol duties at an altitude of 1,500m (5,000ft) and overlooking China. The next morning they stepped out of their ‘yurt’ (thick-walled traditional tent) and found they were in the heart of a malian wonderland. The apple trees, all Malus sieversii, grew to 9m, (30ft) high, hundreds of them, accompanied by a diverse selection of pear trees, apricots, plums and cherries. Every apple tree seemed to bear a different sort of fruit. Some were tiny and yellow like crab apples, others were round, red and as big as Bramleys, illustrating the great genetic diversity that seems characteristic of many apple species. ‘It was like a mad orchard, a huge tangle, full of old, dying trees and young seedlings,’ Barrie says.

After photographing the wild orchard, they collected three leaves from each tree, which were taken back to the laboratory in Oxford, preserved in silica gel, for DNA analysis. There they found a match between some genetic sequences in the samples of their Malus sieversii from Kazakhstan and modern apple cultivars. Comparison with other Malus species showed only remote evolutionary relationships that had occurred in the much more distant past.

The great Russian geneticist, NI Vavilov, is credited with the first suggestion that M. Sieversii might be the progenitor of the modern apples, as early as 1930, but conclusive proof was not then possible. Nor was Vavilov, in spite of his prestige, able at the time to get into that remote, disputed border region.

Barrie and his co-researchers had now shown pretty conclusively that the hybrid theory was wrong and the modern apple’s origins lay in the fruit forests of the Tien Shan. But they wanted to go back even further.

The next question was, how did fruit from a remote part of Asia end up domesticated thousands of miles away in Western Europe? The following year the team returned for more clues because ‘genes alone cannot provide the answer’. This time they entered the Ili Valley via China, and stopped by Urumqi, in the provinces of Xinjiang. Here they saw 4,000- 6,000 year-old human mummies unearthed from the edge of the Taklimakan desert. These individuals dating from the Neolithic and Bronze Age proved, to the surprise of archaeologists, to be not of Asian, but of Caucasian or Indo-European origin. Barrie’s team therefore had direct evidence from the mummies proving there was human traffic moving west-east-west, 6,000 years ago or more, forming a vital part of the jigsaw of the apple’s origins.

Combining the evidence
Barrie was now in a position to construct a complete, if hypothetical, evolutionary history of the apple. It runs thus: the original Malus, judging by the 20-plus species and their numerous varieties in central and southern China, evolved 10-20 million years ago and bore a small fruit with hard but edible seeds, probably similar to those of modern rowans. It was spread by birds through the northern hemisphere and our own wild crab apple is a descendant.

A key small group of wild apples penetrated northwest from their central Chinese stronghold along a fertile corridor, now the Gansu Province. Around 4.5 million years ago, the Tien Shan mountain range began pushing ever higher in the same mountainbuilding episode that created the Himalaya, caused by the collision of India with Asia. Birds took the seeds of one or possibly more species of Malus over the rising hills towards what is now Kazakhstan. Meanwhile, climate change was causing the arid Gobi and Taklimakan deserts to spread over Gansu, preventing movement back east so the Tien Shan apples were cut off and began to evolve in isolation.

As early as 7 million years ago, in the Ili Valley, forest deer, wild pigs and bears began to occupy the growing woodland, joined by wild horses and donkeys from the Steppes further west. All these herbivores would have gorged on the wild autumn fruit, selecting those individual trees producing larger, sweeter and juicier fruit. The apple therefore evolved in tandem to take advantage of these new means of distribution, growing even
larger and sweeter. Gradually it changed from a bird’s fruit with edible seeds to a much larger mammal’s fruit with poisonous seeds (apple pips contain cyanide). The seed coat became smooth, black and hard, and the seed itself became tear-shaped to pass unharmed more easily through the animals’ guts.

By the time the ‘new’ apple had populated the northern slopes of the eastern Tien Shan and reached what is now Almaty, it would have grown to something approximating its present qualities. Much later, after the end of the last ice age (around 10,000 years ago) humans began to travel the animal migratory routes east and west and took advantage of the new fruit.

Thus did the big, sweet apple move west. It was taken up and cultivated in progressively more sophisticated ways in Mesopotamia and around the Mediterranean. Apples cannot be raised from cuttings, so the first cultivated trees would have been grown from seed. Genetic variation would have meant the same size differences still found in the Ili Valley. It was not until the art of grafting was perfected that vegetative propagation of selected trees with the best fruit was possible. Whether or not seed-raised sweet apples reached these shores earlier, it was probably the Romans who brought the modern, grafted apple to Britain, where it found conditions so much to its liking it ultimately produced, as Barrie says, ‘the finest collection of dessert, culinary and cider fruits ever known’.

Barrie will be returning to the ancient fruit forest of which the world knows so little, for it may well hold the key to the origin of the other fruits they found there, the pears and cherries and plums and apricots, and perhaps even almonds and walnuts as well. ‘We’ve started with the apple. Hopefully, we will go on to establish the genetic history of the other fruits, too,’ he says.

Saturday was a good working day at the farm. Warm temperatures and light wind.  Our primary goal this week ( also last and next week) was to dig up field grown trees, prune and pot them up in 5 gal containers for sale this spring and summer.  It is slow and methodical with each person filling a specific role.  One person gets the pots ready and puts on 2 labels with the variety name, 2 people dig, another person plants into the 5 gal. container, the final tag goes onto the tree itself, then they are put in the nusery and watered good, after that they are hooked up to the drip system.  We pay special attention to tagging and labeling since many of these are one of a kind.  Duplication of tags and labels helps since often one may come off during the season. By using a 3 part ID system in addition to computerized location maps, we are always sure of what type it is. In our minds, nothing would be worse for a customer than to grow a tree several years and find out it isn’t what you thought you had.  Mistakes are often made like this at nurseries, but we do our best to make sure it doesn’t happen at ours.

Watering a week before makes digging much easier and better for the trees

Watering a week before makes digging much easier and better for the trees

Digging up young fruit trees requires different shovels types

Digging up young fruit trees requires different shovels types

Our custom potting mix is used for these trees

Our custom potting mix is used for these trees

Loaded 1 at a time in the wagons for trip to the nursery area

Loaded 1 at a time in the wagons for trip to the nursery area



Last Saturday we held our Fruit Tree Pruning and Training Workshop.  Despite the cold weather and somewhat windy conditions we had a great turnout.  Everybody dressed warm and brought gloves for the task.  On the rare times when the sun came out for a few minutes, it was perfect weather! First we discussed the proper tools.  Shears, loppers and saws along with benefits and uses for each with brand preferences. We had a great variety of trees to work with, from first year planted trees, 2 year and all the way up to bearing trees.  We were able to work with Apricot, Almond, Apple, Cherries, Pears, Asian Pears, Plums and Peaches. With 150 plus trees there was something for everyone.

We discussed and demonstrated vase style for the Stone fruits. We went over the latest in cherry pruning “the Spanish Style” and demonstrated with the different methods for Apricots.  With Peaches the norm is vase shape, but we showed the newer “Y” method which forms the tree with just 2 scaffold branches and all fruiting limbs are grown off these. This gives great sun and air circulation, but also allows for closer spacing than usual at 6 feet apart in the row.  With Apples we did Vase and Modified Central Leader styles of pruning.  We also got to work and show how to bring back trees to a central leader that have gotten away from you in the past from either lack of pruning or incorrect pruning.

Pear before Pruning

Pear before Pruning

Pear after pruning with branch spreaders installed

Pear after pruning with branch spreaders installed

Pears, especially European have a normal tendency to upright growth which limits fruit production.  We showed how and where to remove along with branch spreading techniques.  The more horizontal a branch is the more fruit it will give.  The goal is to try for 45  to 60 degree angle to give good crotch strength and highest production.  Some plums are also notorious for upright growth and we were able to see bud development differences with vertical versus more lateral growth.

We were able to work with some new, planted last year, trees to show how to get them off to a good start and also 2 year olds and their training.  The differences between heading and thinning cuts provided for some good learning.  But there is more to growing a good tree than just pruning. The training portion covered how to develop proper crotch angle using various types of trellising, branch spreaders, tying, staking and many other options based on the situation.

Pruning and training fruit trees is as much art as science. There are lots of different methods depending on your unique situation and it is a difficult thing to learn from a book.  The hands-on experience was the best part since everyone got to try as much as they needed or wanted to learn and feel comfortable in pruning their own trees.  All in all it was a great experience and an enjoyable time with the crowd that came. The only drawbacks were we didn’t get enough pictures and we needed more coffee and hot chocolate.  Good things all to remember for next year!

Using clothespins to direct new growth

Using clothespins to direct new growth

It’s not too late to get your dormant pruning done
As fruit trees mature, they must undergo two pruning phases. When the tree is young, the first phase consists of cuts to select the primary scaffold and heading and thinning cuts to create the secondary scaffold. In trees over 5 years old, the second phase begins, in which fruiting wood is maintained and renewed by thinning and heading fruiting and non-fruiting wood. Thinning cuts refer to the complete removal of branches and are applied to promote space for aeration, light penetration and fruit maturation. Heading cuts refer to the removal of portions of branches and are applied to force and direct branching and spur development and to restrict overall size of the tree.
In both phases, general pruning principles apply. First, remove all dead, dying and diseased wood. Second, remove all branches and limbs that grow toward the center of the tree. This promotes aeration and light penetration to the fruiting wood. Third, thin branches and limbs that cross or touch so that abrasions do not develop. Finally, remove any suckers growing off the rootstock above or below the ground.
You will find that heavy pruning encourages the formation of water sprouts and vegetative growth at the expense of fruiting woods. Light pruning, on the other hand, encourages heavy fruit set which results in smaller fruit of poorer quality and possible broken branches. Since home growers must also keep trees to manageable sizes, strive for a balance between heavy pruning and renewing fruiting wood.
In order to achieve this, you should know where your tree bears its fruit.
ALMONDS produce on spurs that remain productive for up to 5 years. Remove water sprouts and head and thin as necessary. As the tree matures, remove older, unproductive spurs to generate new spur growth.
APPLES produce fruiting spurs on wood 2 years and older that are productive for 6 to 10 years. Thin out branches to admit sufficient light to all parts of the tree; this will encourage new spurs to develop. Remove older, unproductive spurs as the tree matures. You may also need to thin spurs. Up to two-thirds new growth can be cut back annually.
APRICOTS bear the bulk of their fruit on 2 year old wood. All new growth can be cut back approximately by two-thirds. This wood will grow fruit spurs the second year and produce fruit the third year.
CHERRIES are borne on long-lived spurs that are productive for 10 to 12 years. When trees are young, head back main limbs one-third to create branching. Continue heading to create more branching and thus, more spurs. Because spurs are long-lived, thinning cuts tend to predominate pruning in phase two.
FIGS produce fruit on 1 year old wood and the upcoming season’s growth. They require little specialized pruning; head back to keep tree to manageable size and thin to keep aerated.
PEACHES AND NECTARINES produce fruit on last year’s growth. Remove about 50 percent of current season’s growth annually. On younger trees prune whips back to 12 to 24 inches. Use thinning cuts to promote aeration.
PEARS bear fruit on spurs on 3 to 10 year old wood. Main limbs are usually headed each year and side limbs are lightly headed or left unheaded, producing spurs and fruit in future years. As in apples, remove older, unproductive spurs and thin middle-aged spurs. Up to two-thirds new growth can be cut back annually.
PERSIMMONS bear on the current season’s shoots. Pruning consists of thinning shoots to promote growth for next season’s crop and heading cuts to keep fruit within reach.
JAPANESE PLUMS AND ITALIAN PLUMS (PRUNES) bear on fruit spurs which live 5 to 8 years. For varieties that bear heavy crops, remove one-half of the shoots each year. Other varieties, like Santa Rosa, bear moderate to light crops so remove only one-quarter of the shoots.
WALNUTS produce fruit on spurs on 5 year old wood that remains productive for up to 15 years. For the mature tree, a pruning program can consist of applying the general pruning principles described above.

SUMMER PRUNING assists home orchardists with the goal of keeping trees to manageable sizes. Typically, the whip emerging from dormant season heading cuts are themselves headed and thinned in August or after fruit harvest. By removing this growth, you remove leaves which would otherwise generate food for the tree and thus, vegetative growth. Since most rootstocks, even those labeled ‘semi-dwarf,’ are primarily developed for soil and climate adaptation, pest and disease resistance and early bearing, controlling the size of the tree becomes the home orchardist’s responsibility. Many trees, especially Apple, Pear, Apricot, Peach, Nectarine, Persimmon, Fig, and Plum trees, can be kept to 10 to 12 feet utilizing summer pruning. Trees this size are more easily sprayed, pruned in winter.





H.-J. Bannier, Pomologen-Verein, 33615 Bielefeld, Germany Translated by Reinhard Schomberg-Klee (Göttingen) and Nigel Deacon (Leicester).
Introduction A hundred years ago there were, in Germany, over a thousand apple varieties documented in the literature (see Diel 1799 to 1832, Dittrich 1839, Langethal 1853, Illustrirtes Handbuch der Obstkunde 1859-1875, Lauche 1883, Engelbrecht 1889, Müller et al. 1905 -1934). The actual number of cultivated apples was probably higher than this; it is unlikely that all of them were fully documented. Many apple varieties spread over the whole country, others were confined to a region or a few villages. Some apples from Germany achieved international fame, and some foreign varieties ended up in Germany. In this way a “variety pool” of mixed origins arose. It was genetically diverse, with a wide range of fruit and tree characteristics, and some resistance to diseases and pests.  
Today the global fruit breeding industry is producing a wide range of varieties, with one big difference: the overwhelming majority are descendants of just six apple cultivars.
The author’s analysis of five hundred commercial varieties developed since 1920, mainly Central European and American types, shows that most are descended from Golden Delicious, Cox’s Orange Pippin, Jonathan, McIntosh, Red Delicious or James Grieve. This means they have at least one of these apples in their family tree, as a parent, grandparent or great-grandparent.
Six apples as “ancestors” of the 500 examined varieties In 274 species (55% of those investigated) the six “ancestor varieties” are represented twice or more in the family tree, in 140 varieties (28%) at least three times, in 87 varieties (17%) at least 4 times and in 55 varieties (11%) 5 times or more.
By far the most common used `ancestor variety´ for breeding is Golden Delicious (347 times crossed into a total of 255 of the examined 500 varieties), followed by McIntosh (252 times cross-bred into 174 varieties), Jonathan (167 times crossed into 154 varieties) and Cox Orange (157 times crossed into 150 varieties). Following this is Red Delicious (95 crosses in 90 varieties) and James Grieve (101 crosses in 75 species). McIntosh and Red Delicious dominate American breeding programmes, and McIntosh has had a central role in developing Columnar varieties. Cox’s Orange Pippin and James Grieve are more commonly used in the European breeding programmes.
Golden Delicious has been involved in breeding more than half of the 500 apples examined, directly or indirectly. Worldwide the varieties McIntosh, Jonathan and Cox’s Orange are crossed in 30% of all new varieties, as parents, grandparents or great-grandparents. The varieties Red Delicious and James Grieve were used in 18% and 15% of the examined breeding varieties respectively.
In the breeding work from 1900 to 1950, the six “ancestor varieties” were usually crossed directly.  Usually only one (or max. two) of the six show up in the pedigree of the new apples. Examples include Alkmene (Germany 1930, Oldenburg x Cox Orange) or Kidd’s Orange (New Zealand 1924, Red Delicious x Cox Orange). In later breeding work it became more common to use the offspring for new crossings. Therefore the indirect participation of the six ancestors increases from decade to decade. Gala, for example [New Zealand 1934, Kidd’s Orange (Red Delicious x Cox Orange) x Golden Delicious] involves the ancestors three times, and Sansa [New Zealand 1969, Gala x Akane (Jonathan x Worcester Pearmain)], involves four ancestor participations in the family tree.
An increase of inbreeding In the last three decades (four decades in the USA), an increasing number of multiple crosses of the six ‘ancestors’ has led to what can only be called ‘inbreeding’.
The variety Prima (USA 1958) has as ancestors in its family tree McIntosh (twice) and Golden Delicious; the variety Topaz (Czech Republic 1984, Rubin x Vanda) has Golden Delicious (twice) and James Grieve(twice) and Jonathan and McIntosh. Santana (Netherlands, 1998, Elstar x Priscilla) has Golden Delicious (twice) and Red Delicious, Cox and McIntosh.
During the promotion of new varieties in the trade press, it is normal to mention the parents  but not the underlying ancestry. This means that the accumulation of genes of the six ancestors is often not apparent, even for experts. In the German fruit literature, the extent of genetic narrowing in apple breeding has not received much attention, though it was covered once by Silbereisen et al in 1986. In the English literature, Noiton & Alspach (New Zealand 1996) point out the strong dominance of the six ancestor varieties and warn against inbreeding.
Today, leaders in the accumulation of genes of the six “ancestors” are the Czech apple Mercury (Topaz x Rajka) and Solaris (Topaz x UEB 2345 / 1): Mercury has five times Golden Delicious, three times James Grieve, twice each Jonathan and McIntosh and Cox Orange once in its ancestry – a total of 13 in-crosses (Fig.1). For Solaris we have  four times each Golden Delicious and James Grieve, three times McIntosh and once Jonathan; a total of twelve in-crosses. 
apple inbreeding and disease susceptibility figure 1: Czech variety ‘Mercury’ with the most gene accumulation from the six ‘ancestors’: five times Golden Delicious, three times James Grieve, twice Jonathan, twice McIntosh; once Cox Orange.
The French variety Initial has in its family tree five of the six “ancestors” (2x McIntosh and 1x each Golden Delicious, Jonathan, Cox’s Orange Pippin and Red Delicious).
A similar tendency is noticed in some recent columnar apples. Pomredrobust (Germany 2003) has 3x Golden Delicious, 2x McIntosh, 2x James Grieve and once Jonathan  in its pedigree. The American breed Sumac (Vista Bella x Jerseymac) has a 7-fold cross-breeding of  McIntosh (see Table 1).
The inbreeding would be estimated to be even higher if it could be proved by DNA analysis that the variety James Grieve – as suspected by Maggioni et al. (1997)  was derived from Cox  (and not solely by Potts Seedling as specified in the current literature).
In the first half of the 20th century there were, in the 500 apples listed, a few chance seedlings and others which did not originate from the six ‘ancestors. There were fewer of these after 1950, but they varieties were not very significant in their market share, and their use for breeding was insignificant or zero.
Of the varieties which still have commercial importance in Germany, only the old varieties Boskoop (NL, 1856/63) and Granny Smith (Aus, 1868) and the more recent Discovery (GB 1949/62) are unrelated to the ‘ancestor’ varieties.  Braeburn (NZ, 1952) may also be unrelated but is suspected by some to be a Cox descendant. The list in Table 2 below shows to the extent of genetic narrowing in apple breeding since 1920, as breeders worldwide tend to pursue similar goals and work with the same parents. The presence of many varieties worldwide in today’s research stations does not represent a very wide spectrum of apple DNA. “The breeding produces … a large number of varieties, but also tends to impoverishment in the field of genetic diversity “(Blaser 2001).
There is a similar story when one looks at breeding programmes aimed at increasing resistance to scab. Most of the varieties raised are descendants of the six “ancestor” varieties. The scab resistance was usually introduced by crossing with a wild apple, but unfortunately most breeders use the same one. “Nearly 95% of today’s scab-resistant apple varieties are based on the Vf-resistance of Malus floribunda 821” (Ruess 2000a). It is likely, therefore, that the resistance depends on a single gene and is unlikely to be durable.
Genetic narrowing in cultivars with monogenic scab-resistance The Vf-resistance from M. Floribunda 821 is quite unlike the polygenic resistance of older varieties. It is convenient to use in breeding programmes because  the Vf-carrier gene can be identified by using molecular markers. This makes it easy to see whether the resistance gene has been incorporated into the cultivar, and it reduces the need for lengthy field observations which might otherwise take several years.
A problem with this strategy is that it leads to genetic impoverishment. The other problem is that resistance dependent on a single gene is often not particularly stable. In several regions of Germany, for example, the single-gene Vf-resistance has been overcome by fungal mutation, observed first in 1983 in the variety Prima (see figure 2). Fischer, 2003, commented: “The breakdown was possible because the resistance is monogenic … and the fungus has been overcome by mutation and natural selection …. “. 
apple inbreeding and disease susceptibility
figure 2. Topaz: breakdown of single-gene scab resistance caused by fungal mutation
The breeders responded by working with resistance dependent on two genes, with the help of molecular genetics. Nevertheless there are fears that the problem of resistance breakdown has not been stopped; merely delayed.
Disease-prone  ancestors The reasons for the breeders’ preference for the six “ancestor varieties”, especially Golden Delicious, are:
-Regular and high-flower set, with some fruit on new wood even if incorrectly pruned -Little biennial tendency -Fruits when very young -Moderate to low growth habit -Uniform fruit shape and size, attractive fruit color -Sweet and aromatic taste -Good fruit firmness for transportation -Good shelf life -Long fruit stem (low risk of damage during harvest) -Less preharvest fruit fall
But the use of six dominant “ancestors” also introduced some vitality problems into modern commercial orchards. The problems are so frequent that they are now considered normal for fruit production.
Their dominance in production and breeding only became possible because the chemical industry developed the necessary pesticides and other products to protect the susceptible trees. Golden Delicious, around since1890 in the U.S.,  was thus able to spread across the world in the middle of the 20th century.
When  the six “ancestors” are observed in non-fungicide-treated orchards and compared to other apple varieties, their defects become obvious:
– Golden Delicious is extremely susceptible to fruit and leaf scab and viruses – Cox Orange is highly susceptible to cancer and scab , susceptible to aphids, powdery mildew, fire blight and viruses – McIntosh is highly susceptible to scab, susceptible to cancer and mildew -Jonathan is very susceptible to mildew and susceptible to `Jonathan-spot’, fire blight and scab. Untreated foliage looks sickly. – James Grieve is susceptible to canker, blood and leaf aphids, red spider, fire blight, and scab – Red Delicious is moderately susceptible to scab
(Petzold 1990, and long-term observations in untreated orchards by the author, see figures 3-6).
apple inbreeding and disease susceptibility
figure 3. Golden Delicious: showing susceptibility to scab
apple inbreeding and disease susceptibility figure 4. Shoot damage on Cox’s Orange Pippin: (a) Scab; (b) Scab and canker
apple inbreeding and disease susceptibility
figure 5. Jonathan: sickly foliage and highly susceptible to mildew
apple inbreeding and disease susceptibility
figure 6. McIntosh: susceptible to scab and mildew
Consequences for the vitality of modern varieties The vast majority of scab problems  in modern apple production are based on the use of Golden Delicious, Cox’s Orange Pippin and McIntosh as breeding parents. There are however orchards growing old varieties which thrive for decades  relatively free of scab, even in unfavorable climatic regions or at sites where the modern dessert apple cultivars will not grow successfully. Such apples include Brettacher, Edelborsdorfer, Eifel Rambur, Finkenwerder Prinzenapfel, Jacob Fischer, Lohrer Rambur, Luxembourg triumph, Martens Seedling, Prince Albrecht of Prussia, Rhenish Winterrambur, Rote Sternrenette,  Seestermüher Zitronenapfel and Zabergäu-rennet (see figures 7-10 ).
apple inbreeding and disease susceptibility
figure 7. Martens Seedling, an old variety with high field resistance to scab and mildew
apple inbreeding and disease susceptibility
figure 8. Seestermüher lemon apple: an old variety with high field resistance to scab and mildew
apple inbreeding and disease susceptibility
figure 9. Rote Sternrenette: an old variety with high field resistance to scab and mildew
apple inbreeding and disease susceptibility
figure 10. Brettacher: resistance to scab and mildew
Likewise, the strong mildew problems in today’s orchards are often caused by over-frequent crossing with the varieties Jonathan, McIntosh and Cox Orange. Old varieties growing in traditional orchards were not immune to mildew, but their partial resistance ensured that the problem was not as severe as in today’s commercial orchards. Another severe defect of modern in-bred apples is their susceptibility to canker. During the commercial introduction of such varieties, these defects are often glossed over or not mentioned, e.g. the high canker susceptibility of Piros or Topaz..
Susceptibility of apples to mealy bugs and wooly aphids  is also very dependant on variety. This is a more general problem and shows little connection with in-breeding. 
Recently a number of new varieties has been found to be susceptible to ‘Jonathan-spot’, where the leaves and fruit are damaged by an Alternaria-like infection. Highly susceptible are many of the modern varieties: Pinova, Rubinola, Topaz and Rewena, Arlet, Prima and Summerred (see figures 11 and 12). The percentage in older varieties seems to be lower), while the percentage in old apple varieties is lower, according to the author’s observations; e.g. Landsberger Renette, Martini, Howgate Wonder and Prince Albert of Prussia).
apple inbreeding and disease susceptibility
figure 11. Pinova: Alternaria infection
apple inbreeding and disease susceptibility
figure 12. Topaz: another variety subject to Alternaria
Although the examples cited have not been quantified, they suggest that the overall vitality of trees should be characterized comprehensively. Scab resistance is important in crop protection but it should not be the only issue considered.
Old varieties with greater vitality If the six “ancestor varieties” are planted in a plot next to older varieties, dramatic differences in the vitality of plants occur (see figures 13 a, b). The author has noticed this in his non-fungicide orchard in Bielefeld, where he grows Luxembourg Triumph, Edelborsdorfer,  Seestermüher Zitronenapfel,  Eifeler Rambur. The differences in vitality seem to increase as the trees get older. It should be noted that the differences between old and new varieties are masked if the crop is produced intensively with regular chemical spraying.
apple inbreeding and disease susceptibility figures 13a/b. Dramatic differences in the vitality of Jonathan (a) and Edelborsdorfer (a). Both varieties are standing side by side in the author’s orchard, without fungicide
There is no research known by the author in which the vitality of old and new apple varieties has been measured over a long period of time without fungicide spraying. Research seems to be restricted to observng the effects of a particular fungicide, or its withdrawal, over a relatively short period of time. Long-term research on tree vitality without fungal treatment seems to be an area where research would be worthwhile, in comparing old and new varieties.
Genetic predisposition is only visible  in fungicide-free orchards Two years of non-fungicide growing were carried out at Dresden-Pillnitz about a decade ago (Fischer, 2003). 
Four modern varieties were found to be scab and mildew-free: Rebella, Reglindis, Remo, and Rewena. 
Of the older varieties, some were found to be equally resistant, e.g. Red Sternrenette, Bittendfelder, Börtlinger wine apple, Erbachhofer, Engelsberger, Early Victoria and Cardinal Bea.
Others showed partial resistance: Jakob Fischer, Hibernal, Prince apple, Spätblühender Taffetapfel, Peasgood Goldrenette, Riesenboiken, and Gewürzluiken.
The most popular varieties in professional fruit production like Gala, Rubinette, Golden Delicious, Granny Smith (mainly Delicious-descendants), and Elstar and  Idared, etc. were the most affected. They can only produce to commercial quality standards with intensive crop protection. (Fischer 2003).
The author has planted in his private testing orchard  since 1995 over 200 different new and old apple varieties  (on M7 – and MM106 rootstock), using no fungicide treatment since that time. The only treatments were the control of the codling moth (with granulosis virus) and the winter moth (with Bacillus thuringiensis, most recently in 1997/98 and 2010). The treatment of canker is entirely mechanical; cutting out followed by the use of clay for wound treatment.
Observations show that certain old apple varieties seem to have have a  greater and longer-lasting vitality than most modern cultivars.  This is seen under normal and more extreme growing conditions, including areas of high rainfall or orchards at high altitude.Apple varieties like Luxembourg or Edelborsdorfer triumph thrive even in these regions scab free, without fungicide treatment. Their resistance is by no means one hundred percent, but it is significant and long-lasting (see figures 14 a, b).
apple inbreeding and disease susceptibility figures 14a/b. Luxembourg Triumph: Significant multi-gene long-term scab resistance: (a) fruit, (b) leaves 
Exceptions confirm the rule One should be careful in claiming that old apple varieties are more robust than the new varieties. The situation is more complex. Many of the older popular varieties (e.g. Goldparmäne, Landsberger Renette, Ingrid Marie, Berlepsch and Cox) are sensitive and demanding of the grower’s skill.
Some of the best old varieties never found national fame, in spite of their quality, and were widely ignored by institutions and fruit breeders. Some of them (eg Edelborsdorfer, English Spitalrenette, Langtons Nonsuch and others) had become lost in recent decades, and were only rediscovered in recent years by the German Pomological Society.
There are also a few new varieties which seem to possess high vitality, e.g. Florina and Reglindis, and in a few cases it has been noticed that susceptible parents produce resistant offspring. One example is Alcmene (Cox’s Orange x Oldenburg) which is relatively untroubled by scab and canker, when neither parent is immune. Both parents are prone to canker, Cox  is Triebschorf-susceptible and Oldenburg is moderately susceptible to fruit and leaf scab.
Despite these exceptions it is clear that that some old varieties have reasonable field resistance against apple scab and an overall vitality which the majority of modern commercial varieties do not possess. Fruit production without fungicide is unthinkable with today’s commercial varieties, but it might be possible with careful selection (and possibly breeding development) of old varieties.  Newer varieties with their Malus floribunda scab resistance and  the genes of disease-prone ancestors will never thrive in a zero-fungicide orchard.
Genetic diversity is essential for a healthy fruit industry The dangers of genetic narrowing leading to vulnerability against pests is shown by the example of Central European apricot cultivars. In the last two decades they were consistently hit by Sharka virosis and they have been largely replaced by resistant American varieties in many commercial orchards. We do not know what diseases and pests to expect in the future as the climate gradually changes, or how the virulence of scab or other fungal diseases will alter, but a wider genetic diversity is likely to be useful in several ways.
“No one today can predict which qualities may be valuable; old pests may suddenly mutate, other harmful organisms may appear as the climate changes, consumer eating habits may change, and there may be other surprises in store.” (Fischer , 2003). “Qualities which may seem worthless today may be of interest in the future if comsumer demands are changing.” (Ruess 2000 b).
Unlocking the potential of old varieties In the short term it may be more rewarding and more efficient, to breed only with monogenic or digenic scab resistances and to cross them with varieties, or their descendants, which are relatively susceptible to disease. At the present time, plant protection products are easy to obtain on the world market, and disease susceptibility is not a major worry..
However, high pesticide use is associated with residue problems in soils, groundwater and fruit. The long-term breeding goal should be a comprehensive, rather than scab-focused, vitality of varieties. Old varieties whose vitality is proven over centuries, could again get a bigger role. There is a fear that old apple varieties grow too strongly, bear moderately and have only moderate flavour, and may be fit only for for processing and cider. There is no evidence for this belief. 
Amongst the old varieties, there are many heavy bearing trees such as Bismarck apple, Fießer Erstling, Langton’s Nonsuch, Martini, Oberdieck Renette, Prince Albrecht of Prussia, Purple Cousinot, Seestermüher lemon apple, and Strauwalds Pearmain which have largely been forgotten since Golden Delicious became dominant in the market and in apple breeding.  There are also many varieties with good taste, e.g. Batull, Berlepsch, Biesterfelder Renette, Gascoyne Scarlet, Gravenstein, Jacob Fischer, Kruger Dickstiel, Landsberger Renette, Luisenapfel, Martens Seedling, Orleans Renette, Parker Pippin, Pojnik, Prince apple, Ribston Pippin, Beauty of Nordhausen, Stahls Winter Prince , etc.).
The apple cultivar Discovery (figure 15) with its high vitality – in the 1940s bred from the old varieties Worcester Pearmain and Beauty of Bath – is a good example of an apple which tastes good and gives a high yield. These qualities can be developed in new apple varieites without using the six “ancestors” of  modern fruit production. Discovery shows a high and stable resistance to scab and is a very attractive dessert apple which needs (despite its susceptibility to sunburn) more attention by the breeders. The observed suceptibility of  Discovery for fruit cracking, and that of Alkmene, is actually lower in many untreated orchards than in those treated by fungicide. It may be that copper and sulphur sprays increase cracking.
apple inbreeding and disease susceptibility figure 15. Discovery: bred from old varieties. It has attractive fruits and high scab resistance
If we aim eventually for fungicide-free fruit production, it will be necessary to compare the vitality of old apple varieties and new breeds in both fungicide-treated and untreated orchards.
Old varieties – a practical advantage for allergy sufferers? A final point worthy of mention is that genetic diversity may benefit those with allergy to commercial apples. Many people, as a result, can only consume processed or cooked apple. The use of some carefully chosen older varieties could help overcome this problem. A number of them (e.g. Prince Albrecht of Prussia, see Fig.16, Bernese rose apple, Notarisapfel, and Gold Pearmain) are known to be well tolerated by those who are otherwise allergic. 
apple inbreeding and disease susceptibility figure 16. For apple allergy sufferers: Prinz Albrecht of Prussia 
My special thanks go to Dr. Werner Schuricht, Jena, for his advisory assistance and research.

APPENDIX…… 500 commercial apples developed since 1920, and their relationship to the six ‘ancestor varieties’: Golden Delicious, Cox, Jonathan, McIntosh, Red Delicious and James Grieve. These are marked in bold.
The list focuses on varieties from America and Europe. 
Multiple inbreeding is marked by underlining.
Some of the crosses between the six ‘ancestors’ and their close relatives show additional inbreeding, e.g. Red Delicious x Delicious. 
The years (in brackets) show the year of a particular cross, or the year when the variety became available, or when Plant Variety Protection was granted.
Also listed are a few varieties which were developed before 1920 but which only became available after that date.
Clones were not usually listed. 
Names which are shaded are believed to be correct but the underlying parentage of the shaded variety is uncertain.
The sources used were: fruit registers, general fruit literature, journals, internet sources, and information obtained privately from breeders.  There is insufficient space here to give full details of all of the sources.
Abbreviations:  ub = Unknown,  Vf = Malus floribunda, Vp = Malus pumila F2 26829-2-2 Schorfresistenz clone [(Morgenduft× VF) × (Morgenduft × VF)].
There may be additional inbreeding; it is suspected that James Grieve may have Cox as a parent. However it is unproven and has been ignored. 
So- for those of you who wish to look at the varieties in more detail, click on the rtf file APPENDIX . It runs to many pages of very small print. It will open in a separate window so you can keep the ‘key’ to the abbreviations on the screen.

COPYRIGHT DECLARATION This English translation from the German is ©Reinhard Schomberg-Klee and Nigel Deacon. 
Original text and pictures © H-J Bannier.
English version reproduced by permission of the author, Mr. Hans-Joachim Bannier, and Carol Lerch, Springer spectrum | Springer-Verlag GmbH, SAV-journals, editorial BIOspektrum.
The original article originally appeared in Erwerbs-Obstbau Volume 52, 2011, Numbers 3-4, 85-110, DOI: 10.1007/s10341-010-0113-4

Currently we grow about 30 varieties of apples in our orchard. Over the last two years we have grafted several more varieties (about 50) that we have received scion wood from collectors and will offer for sale in the near future.  Many of these we have field planted to grow up to size.  However we don’t have a lot more room to devote to planting fruit trees therefore our decision was to container grow these.

Tree grown for scion wood

Scion wood is 1 year growth from a specific variety of fruit tree.  The small twig or branch portion usually has 3 or 4 buds and is grafted onto an appropriate rootstock. Commercial tree growers that grow young trees for fruit farmers to plant, generally  keep what is called a “mother block”.  This is an orchard that the trees are pruned to maximize branching and twiggy growth so that the largest number of scions can be cut and grafted to become new trees each year. These are pruned to make wood and not fruit.  Several hundred scions can be cut from a single tree and many of these big growers may just have one or a few of each variety which they use to make hundreds or thousands of new trees yearly.   The picture shows a mother tree after dormant pruning.  In the mother block trees can be planted closer than normal since no fruit is desired and usually fertilized higher than normal with nitrogen to promote vegetative growth.

In our new scion nursery we chose to plant semi-dwarf instead of dwarf as would be Digging treesnormal for container growing.  We felt SD rootstock would give more and faster top growth. Add to that the natural dwarfing by container growing and heavy pruning should work better for our purpose.   Of course we don’t want to prune as heavy as the big guys since we also want fruit from these!  Container growing also eliminates weed competition and gives greater control of nutrient use. It also allows us to leave lower branches since the trees are elevated about 2′ above ground level.

setting containersThis Saturday was warm with low wind, a rarity for this time of year. The guys started by lining up railroad ties. This protects a faucet and drain that each year gets run over by cars plus will help hold the bark chips we will add around the containers.  After that they centered the 25 gal. cans at 48” in 2 rows alternating for better sunlight penetration and air circulation.  While this is close spacing, the benefit of container growing is they can be spread apart if more space is needed.

Next we backed up the pickup with a load of our potting mix to make filling easier.Ready to fill  This load held about a yard and a half. The mix can be purchased by the yard from Soilutions in Albuquerque.dug tree low branches

Trees were dug one at a time from our field planting.  We chose to leave some native soil on the roots to protect them from drying out during transplanting and also to inoculate the pots with the mycorrhizal fungus that is so important to the root’s ability to absorb nutrients.

all plantedThe trees were then planted and new tags applied. Along with that we made a map of their order which will be entered into our computer records.  Mapping your plantings and saving to disk is invaluable when tags disappear or fade and when your memory disappears or fades also!

We were able to get 19 trees planted with this load of soil mix or about 12 per cubic yard.  After the planting was completed we then went back and applied a 1” layer of composted and aged goat manure.  Goat manure, while not as readily available here as horse manure, is better because the multiple stomachs of a goat digest weed seeds better than a horse’s single stomach.  Also the nutrient profile is a little better for plants.Top dressing manure

We have room in this area for about 30 trees and will finish planting  with the next good weather .  After that we will fill the area with wood chips to stop weeds, add drip irrigation and mulch the trees. We have also gathered log rounds to use as stepping stones to get through on the west side.  At this point we have preserved and worked around the  native trees and will probably need to do some summer pruning on them.  We also helped to define a loading and parking area for customer pick ups on the east side with the use of the railroad ties.

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