UVM Apple Orchard
The UVM Apple Program:
Extension and Research for the commercial tree apple grower in Vermont and beyond...
Getting Started in Apple Orchard Management
Terence Bradshaw, University of Vermont Apple Team Research Specialist
Apples have been a primary horticultural crop in Vermont since colonial times. Soon upon settling the state, early Vermonters began to plant apple trees from mostly unimproved seedling stock, primarily for feeding livestock and making cider. Beginning in the late 1800's grafted trees began to fill orchards of selected varieties chosen more for their edible and storage properties which allowed fruit to be shipped to markets, and the age of orcharding as a cash crop began. By the turn of the twentieth century Vermont was producing in excess of one million bushels of apples, a figure that roughly stands today.
The winters of 1917-1918 and 1933-1934 were extremely cold, killing many trees of less-hardy varieties. After this period the cold-hardy McIntosh, first discovered in Ontario in 1811 and brought to Vermont in 1868, became the dominant variety grown in the state. Improved management techniques for growing, storing, packing, and shipping of fruit allowed for the rise of apple orchards as distinct farming operations with increasing contraction of varieties grown to those that best suited the growing and marketing systems in the state. Beginning in the 1950's, orchard efficiency increased, due mostly to the use of dwarfing rootstocks and more intensive management of plantings. Controlled atmosphere storage allowed for nearly year-round marketing of what was becoming a commodity crop, with most fruit shipped out of state and overseas.
Beginning in the 1980's, wholesale markets for apples began to decline due to increased competition from larger states and especially southern hemisphere production regions. The trend towards increased retail and pick-your-own crops marketed locally increased, and the ration of wholesale versus retail apple sales changed accordingly. With this new focus came a diversification of apple varieties and planting systems, with McIntosh still dominant but other varieties including Honeycrisp, Empire, Gingergold, and Gala becoming more prominent. Vermont still maintains a healthy wholesale apple industry which still specializes in McIntosh as well as its offspring, Cortland, Empire, and Macoun, as well as Honeycrisp and other newer varieties. In 2009 Vermont's apple crop was valued at over $14 million according to the New England Agricultural Statistics Service.
Orcharding can be a very rewarding enterprise, but there are significant risks involved. This guide seeks to provide some useful information for the beginning grower, as well as to seasoned farmers. It is not meant to be a recipe book for apple growers, but rather a primer on growing practices and launch pad to pertinent sources of information available.
2010 New England Tree Fruit Management Guide. USDA Cooperative Extension Services of Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Vermont. Available from Anne Marie Resnik, UVM Plant and Soil Science office, (802)656-2630. $35.
Temperate-Zone Pomology: Physiology and Culture, Third Edition. M. Westwood. 1993. ISBN-13: 978-0881922530. This text is the standard reference for most Tree Fruit Production courses. Those who wish to delve deeper into the material should consider purchasing it from Amazon or other booksellers.
Apples: Botany, Production and Uses. Edited by D C Ferree, Ohio State University, USA, I Warrington, HortResearch, New Zealand, May 2003 / Hardback / 672 Pages / 9780851995922. An excellent, comprehensive, and expensive book on the subject. Well worth it for the serious grower or researcher, available from www.cabi.org.
General Websites and Electronic Documents
VermontApples.Org Vermont Tree Fruit Growers Association
A Grower’s Guide to Organic Apples. Cornell University 2009
New York Fruit Quarterly Timely Research Reports from Cornell University Fruit Specialists