New Apple For The Midwest
Since its formation in the mid 1990s, the Midwest Apple Improvement Association (MAIA), a grower-driven breeding program, has been hard at work evaluating potential varieties that could be economically and culturally viable for Midwest producers. This past year, the group’s efforts paid off with the release of EverCrisp, its first commercial variety.
In the spring of 1997, grower volunteers within MAIA made their first crosses, selecting parents based on their cropping reliability, disease resistance, and flavor and quality attributes. Breeding has continued each year since, with more than 50,000 seedlings distributed to members for trial and evaluation.
The seedling that became EverCrisp first fruited in 2007. After observation and study over the next three years, it was propagated in 2009, and topworked trees fruited in 2011.
Last year, MAIA decided to fast-track the release of the variety based on what it had demonstrated over the previous four years.
EverCrisp is a controlled cross of Honeycrisp and Fuji. According to David Doud, owner of David Doud’s Countyline Orchard in Wabash, IN, it is an attractive 3-inch apple that ripens approximately two weeks after Golden Delicious. Here are some other unique characteristics about the variety:
• It is very sweet, and somewhat harder than Honeycrisp but with a similar crunch.
• It maintains quality for extended periods under adverse conditions.
• It is annual bearing and self-regulating, non-dropping, and has a long harvest window, with minimal bitter pit (unlike Honeycrisp).
• It has a weak to moderate growing tree, with weak dominance, and is well spurred with branching occurring at right angles. “It does not appear to be a high-maintenance variety,” says Doud, who does note that if it is allowed to hang on the tree into November, it may exhibit watercore.
MAIA members have classified EverCrisp as a “managed open” release. The association will charge trademark and royalty fees to those who want to grow it, with funds going back to the breeding program. However, “we are not going to limit who has access,” says MAIA president Bill Dodd. “The intention is for the group to share what it came up with.”
More details on EverCrisp are available on www.evercrispapple.com, a website recently launched by MAIA.
Doud notes that even though about 50 advanced selections from MAIA have been distributed to members since 2010, none would be considered an immediate follow-up to EverCrisp, at least for now. “After this year, we will look closer at them and determine what could be lined up,” says Doud.
Doud also points out that future releases from MAIA may not follow the same model as EverCrisp; some of them may be completely open from the outset. Whatever the case, Doud says the goals of any new variety introductions will be the same: “We want highly flavored apples and want to make sure they also have keeping ability and a good appearance.”