Breeding and Discovery in the Orchard at Redbyrd…

May 2020
At Redbyrd we are always looking to improve our orchard system. Experimenting with and discovering new ideas, and ways of management has always been interesting to us. One of those ideas is the quest of finding and breeding new varieties. For years we have found, propagated, named and distributed our favorite wild found varieties. These apples Gnarled Chapman, Redbyrd Bitter, Searsburg Cherry Bomb , Barn Hill Sharp are all treasures bred by nature, selected by us for their flavor and disease resistant attributes. We are so excited these apples have made it successfully into our and others’ orchards.

from top to bottom: Barnhill Sharp, Redbyrd Bitter, Gnarled Chapman 2019 harvest
Searsburg Cherry Bomb in bloom.
Another avenue of breeding has been to grow out seedling trees where we know the “ mother” variety which is the variety where the seed came from but we don’t know the other variety whose pollen fertilized the flower and formed the apple….., this is called open pollinated. We have grown out some duds and grown out some gems with this simple technique. Last year our good friends at Perry City Orchard and Nursery grafted for us some of these gems. All of them are open pollinated Porter’s Perfection, we named these new apples Pleiades, Spica, Bellatrix, and Betlegeuse all names of stars which share the same wonder and mystery of the unknown and creation of the cosmos. They are all uniquely different exciting new varieties with reminents of the parent we know and reminents of all the countless other relatives of the many thousands of years of crosses in the genetic past. This spring we planted more of these four selected seedlings In our orchard for further evaluation and budwood to distribute.
Pleiades, Spica, and Betelgeuse 2019 harvest
Now as the pink buds slowly open to reveal the flower and the bees buzz around freely, unknowingly making crosses of the future we attempt to refine our quest for new apples. We will be the bees!!!, we will pollinate, we will make intentional crosses. Many ideas are abuzz….., cross the prolific Texas King Crab with Ashmead’s Kernel, cross Baldwin with Golden Russett, cross Porter’s Perfection with Honeycrisp!!…., what?!?!? The possibility’s are endless. We will bag flowers before they open keeping the bees at bay, take pollen from our desired cross, open the bag for an instant, pollinate the flower, rebag the flower, and hope to form an apple, but this time the harvest is not the rich flavorful fruit but the seeds. We will grow the seeds……, and in 6-8 years, evaluate the fruit.  The ultimate goal here is to improve our low input sustainable orchard system to produce fruit and cider for health and happiness!!!!! Let the flowers open
Pollinating with a paint brush.

Categories: nys hard cider

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