Friday, November 11, 2016

UW Botany Professor's work on restoring sweet apple to air on Wyoming PBS on Nov 14, 2016 at 9:00am

The sweet apple was a critical resource during settlement of the central Rocky Mountain States. Highly adaptable, the apple was a convenient food source of great nutritional value, even when dried, and provided numerous other critical products for the pioneers and homesteaders. The diversity of apple cultivars in Wyoming during these years was quite high. A number of apple varieties were even developed specifically for the cold drought-prone, high elevation climate of Wyoming.

Alarmingly, the last remnants of 19th and early 20th century plantings struggle to survive in isolated nearly forgotten or abandoned orchards. These apples have survived in many cases for over a century unattended under harsh conditions and are still producing fruit. That makes each of these trees and cultivars extremely valuable. Unfortunately, the identification of individual trees in orchards to specific cultivars has been mostly lost.

Dr. Miller is holding the newly grafted
tree from the 130+ year old one
that is producing sweet apples
Dr. Steve Miller (Professor, Botany) has been on a quest to find and save these 100+ year old apple trees in Wyoming by grafting them onto new rootstock.  These vigorously growing trees will be planted into a germplasm repository orchard at the Sheridan Research and Extension Center (ShREC) and used to restore historic orchards such as the one at the Central Wyoming College Field Station in Lander.

His team is using molecular techniques to identify trees to specific cultivars. There is currently great interest in restoring old trees to productivity, and establishing new orchards in Wyoming for sweet apple fruit production for sale at local farmers markets and for hard cider production. The Wyoming Apple Project is providing critical information on which cultivars are best to grow in various regions of Wyoming. This information will allow nurseries to sell cultivars that are best suited to specific regions.

Dr. Miller’s research on Wyoming apples is funded by the Wyoming Department of Agriculture Specialty Crops Program and the UW Agricultural Experiment Station.

Additional information about this work can be found in the article published by the Wyoming Livestock Roundup.

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