New Apple on the Way for the Mid-Atlantic Region

New Apple on the Way for the Mid-Atlantic Region

‘Antietam Blush’ is a ‘Cripps Pink’ by a ‘McIntosh Wijcik’ and ‘Gala’ cross. (Photo: University of Maryland)

Apple growers in the Mid-Atlantic often struggle to grow varieties that thrive in humid and hot climates. Researchers at the University of Maryland have developed a variety that not only thrives in the Mid-Atlantic but also boasts impressive scion-dwarfing.

‘Antietam Blush’ is a ‘Cripps Pink’ by a ‘McIntosh Wijcik’ and ‘Gala’ cross, with the white lenticels like a ‘Gala.’ Fruit flavor is refreshing and sweet. It’s a precocious grower and harvests around the first week of October in Keedysville, MD.

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Christopher Walsh, Professor of Plant Science and Landscape Architecture in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources at the University of Maryland, and then-graduate assistant Julia Harshman developed ‘Antietam Blush.’ Harshman is now a postdoctoral scholar in strawberry breeding and research at the University of California, Davis.

“We’re looking to select things that will tolerate heat, span the season, and pick until November,” Walsh says.

‘Antietam Blush’ is a shorter, narrower tree with a more-effective natural branching profile, to allow for minimal pruning. The variety also offers higher tolerance to drought and disease resistance.

“This is a late-season, high-sugar/high-acid fruit so it has good flavor after cold storage,” Walsh says.

Breeding heat-tolerant varieties with fire blight resistance is very important, Walsh says. “We challenge it in the field.”

Harshman says one of the interesting features of ‘Antietam Blush’ is the dwarfing properties of the variety, which “can be grafted on size-controlling rootstocks that do not necessitate trellis support.”

Walsh and his research team are looking to impart more of these scion-dwarfing properties into a portfolio of future new varieties. Qualities also being looked at are tree architectures that need limited pruning, own-root planting, or rootstocks that do not need trellising — all while offering more tolerance to the Mid-Atlantic climate and excellent fruit quality and disease resistance.

“Many years ago, we recognized the need for apple trees that would tolerate Maryland’s hot, humid summer climate. Over time, we combined heat-tolerant fruit quality with a tree architecture that reduces the need for hand-pruning labor. ‘Antietam Blush’ is the first in a series of new apple varieties that combines these two “grower-friendly” characteristics,” Walsh says in a news release.

‘Antietam Blush’ was named a 2013 invention of the year finalist from the University of Maryland’s Office of Technology Commercialization.

Walsh says the apple has been on display at the Mid-Atlantic Fruit and Vegetable Convention, whether it’s at the Maryland State Horticultural Society booth or as a part of the variety showcase, with good feedback.

“We’ve had good taste tests at Hershey for the past few years,” Walsh says. “[Grower] Bob Black has been bringing fruit to the Maryland registration desk, typically giving out 20 boxes a year to local growers.”