Cornell University is home to a large apple breeding program. Located near Ithaca, New York at the New York State Agricultural Experiment Station, the program has released 66 apple varieties over the course of its 123-year history, including the Cortland Apple which celebrates an impressive 105th birthday in 2020.
The most recent selections to pass the tests of selective breeding at Cornell were patented in 2011. Known in the field by the cultivar names NY1 and NY2, these newest introductions were trademarked under the brand names SnapDragon® and RubyFrost®. Within the United States and North America, these apples are exclusive to a cooperative of New York farmers called Crunch Time Apple Growers, where they enjoy growing popularity in the managed apple variety category.
With steady growth occurring in the domestic markets, Cornell was ready to take their products to the next level and develop them into globally recognized brands. To assist in this endeavor, the university contracted with Proprietary Variety Management (PVM) located in Yakima, Washington, an intellectual property company that specializes in commercializing managed varieties. Through its sister-company, Brandt’s Fruit Trees, PVM is connected to a vast network of tree fruit nursery companies and commercialization programs throughout the major apple growing regions of the world.
Beginning in 2016, PVM started to introduce the varieties to their partners in the southern hemisphere and worked to clear material that could be planted in test orchards. In the country of New Zealand, PVM licensed long-time associate, The New Zealand Fruit Tree Company to test and evaluate the New York selections. The first plantings occurred in 2018 and the now 2-year-old trees produced their first fruit for harvest in March of 2020.
John Morton, CEO of NZ Fruit Tree Company, noted they observed “very promising results in the research orchards”. NY1, marketed as SnapDragon®, reportedly produced very uniform Gala-sized fruit, which was attractive and blemish free with the characteristic “Monster Crunch,” juicy texture, and sweet aromatic flavor. The late-season RubyFrost®, NY2 cv. is proving to be highly productive in the New Zealand climate, with full colored fruit that is attractive and blemish free as well. The samplers liked the full, rich flavor, and crisp, juicy texture.
Although test plantings were limited in 2018, with these positive results, it is hoped the first commercial plantings of the SnapDragon® will occur in 2021 with RubyFrost® expected to follow suit in the near future.