Proving yet again that the “but the odds against getting anything good are astronomical” crowd is wrong. I keep seeing that notion being proven wrong here. It’s thanks to this forum that I now believe that breeding apples isn’t exactly rocket science.
That is just a myth based on a misunderstanding or faulty logic that since it can take thousands of seedlings to select something that a breeding program considers worthy, only one apple in thousands is any good at all and the rest are garbage. I think now we have even better odds, because we have access to a lot of really good parents. Most heirloom apples are ho hum and many are bad. Also many classic gems of course, but Albert Etter for instance collected about 500 varieties and found the same as I have, that most of them were not very good. He was able to make progress quickly, just by selecting the best parents. As he said, if you want to breed good milk cows, you start with the best cows. I started with one crappy cow, crossed with much better parents and still got a decent percentage of apples worth eating and probably a handful to propagate and keep. Nails are being driven into the coffin of that myth pretty fast now.
A lot of programs are working on red flesh now. They’ll show up in stores soon. There are many dark red crabs and I don’t think breeding a dark red juice apple should be all that hard, though when combined with other desirable traits like growth habit, disease resistance etc, it can get a lot harder.
I’m thinking about how to do things. I will do some content that is more aimed at getting views, but I think that answer is to figure out how to create a passive income that actually works well so I can fund my research independently and not worry about views at all. I don’t want to wrap my content around what the masses want, because they want reality tv, image and sensationalism for the most part. A message that is engineered toward a very large audience will not be the same message that I have to offer. I can concentrate on niches that have wider interest than apples, like tanning, and that is great, but then this wouldn’t happen and I think this project is having some really broad and I think important ripple effect. I like the idea of a vid on restricted apple forms for domestic situations. Thanks for the effort and concern. I know what I’m doing isn’t working and it probably won’t even pay my bills in the long run, let alone fund the stuff I really want to make happen, just on orchard related stuff, let alone other projects.
This is very neat… thanks for sharing. I just bought about 20 different varieties of apples from an orchard that’s about 5 miles from us. We will be planting the seeds to see what, if anything, we get.
As far as your YouTube channel goes, just set up a new channel for this content. A lot of YouTubers maintain 2 or more channels so that they can split their content up.
Several years down the road when I have flowering named stock to isolate I might devote a portion of my parent’s yard (~1 mile away) to experiments. It’s a matter of if they let me. Not enough room here to risk on unknown seedlings. If a lot of small backyard guys get into doing that we are bound to see amazing results somewhere.
Yes, it’s a numbers thing for sure.
I really appreciate everything you do. If we don’t start trying to breed apples again we are going to lose to disease and insect resistance as well as climate changes. I think its obvious there is a lot of room still and alot of clear goals to achieve with apples and we cannot stop now. I do think its very hard as far as space goes but what about planting them in smaller containers that could be auto watered so we can stress them and force them info flower at early ages so we can have an idea of what there expression is and weed out the bad ones. If we think about how much progress was made on apples just in the 100 years we did alot with mass plantings and homesteads it seems foolish to stop.
I agree that this is a hard way to sustain yourself financially and you do have to do what it takes to make ends meet and be happy. Personally though that can only go so far and greed is a hell of a drug, trying to be a part of that system is not what makes me happy.
I feel there has to be something genetic between astringency, red flesh fruit and fireblight resistance. Sadly my biggest failure on trees has been apples and has been because i wanted some cider and some red fleshed apples and fireblight is a very significant disease in my area. I would love to try and breed some fireblight resistant cider and red flesh apples. The hard thing is finding apples which are expressing there dominant traits in there good fruit etc. and are willing to throw that to there offspring. I think some are good throwers like golden delicious, you always see some of it in its offspring and i believe that its dominant traits are alot of its good traits.
Very awesome topic! I think I am going to start saving apple seeds now
It is neat to think that the next best variety could be growing right now and in someones backyard
(Just remember he said “it’s a numbers game”…how many thousand seeds are you willing to baby until they produce that amazing offspring!??)
I may have to clear some overgrown areas on my land up
That numbers game is actually not as badly slanted as you might think. As posted above, picking good parents with complementary traits is crucial. With pecan, about 1 tree in 50 from carefully selected parents will be a good to very good tree. The gotcha is when looking for a world beating good tree. Only 1 in 20,000 will be as good or better than the best 20 varieties available today. So the simple rule is that you can easily breed a “1 in 50” tree and have something worth the effort, but breeding a new standard variety will take a lot more effort.
Good point, Fusion_power.
It’s worth noting that a handful of very large producer corporations have helped determine those “20” you speak of. With all the newer apples that are good ones, any store could have a good lineup of apples on display and not have a single Gala or Honeycrisp (or CosmicCrisp) on the display at all.
So, without the marketing power of Washington State or Australia, any one of us may breed an excellent new apple, but it still have about zero odds of becoming a top 20 apple.
Its important to remember context when assessing the numbers. The next best thing to me might be completely useless to commercial producers. The top 20 apples in commercial production now aren’t that great for out and out interest and enjoyment as far as I can tell. Also, if we view small scale breeding as part of a dispersed, unorganized community effort, any one person’s 10 or 100 seedlings are just a portion of thousands, and what is probably already tens of thousands being planted out there by small scale and home growers. If the majority are released into the public domain, we can all benefit, not to mention benefiting from new breeding stock. Some things I’m convinced of are that it is not hard to equal and beat commonly grown cultivars for interest and flavor, and that if thousands are grown, hundreds will be worth growing and grafting to someone. My first open pollinated seedling to fruit, BITE ME!, was equal to or better than Wickson this year. It’s a Wickson seedling. I’d just as soon eat it as anything that grows here, but it has no commercial potential due to scab susceptibility and it would probably travel poorly. Out of my first four O.P. Wickson seedlings, one is totally useless, one is boring and a fourth is promising, but only fruited this year for the first time. Extrapolate that and imagine what might come out of the probably now close to 2000 wickson open pollinated and intentional cross pollinated seed that I’ve sent out to others and planted myself, let alone all the open pollinated seeds and crosses. Seriously, this is going to get really interesting
Good analysis. Thanks
I wonder ?
Is it worth the time to hand cross, flowers , do controlled crosses ?
Or , rather just grow out a lot of seedlings from a orchard of good varietys.
The problem being , individually , we don’t have the space , time , etc to gamble on this.
But,… Ironically , deer hunters plant apples for deer…
( ironically, because …, deer are a big problem for apple growers)
Also , seedling orchards as silvapasture, hogs, cattle ? .,poultry.
So… If we could provide low cost " seedlings " to the large hunting community , and others ,…to plant out ,evaluate, ( let the deer decide? ) it would massively expand the genetics.
I think that most deer hunters , buy a grafted tree from the big box stores,… the deer ., Just want a apple. And usually are happy with that.
So like a " New ,"Jonny apple seed.!
I think that is a great idea, but it doesn’t have to be either or. Intentional breeding crosses open up more possibilities for steering things in certain directions. It is also the rare orchard that doesn’t have quite a few duds or apples one wouldn’t choose for parents for various reasons, which has to dilute results. I have tossed around the idea of having an isolated frankentree, or multiple of them, that are all selected parents and just let them do their thing willy nilly. You could also have different frankentrees for just late hanging apples, crab improvement, early apples, cider apples, red fleshed apples etc. But the isolation would have to be pretty far from other apple trees. Still, that would be really cool. There is also an in between, which I’ve started doing, which is using pollen blends and mass pollination using bagging or caging. I can net a large branch or small tree and apply pollen mixes or a lot of one pollen to make a lot of seeds with low input. I’ve also thought about growing mass OP, or bulk crossed seedlings and sending those out as you say. It would be interesting to do a broadcast bad, quite thick and see how big they could be grown in really crowded conditions. I may actually try that experiment with the left over bulk pollinated Wickson seeds I may have this year that were pollinated with pollen mixes.
I think that the great boom in apple diversity that occurred in America, was borne of a chaos of seedlings, everything from wildlings, to seeds planted for rootstocks, to even some intentional plantings to see what came of them. I’d like to foster a similar chaos, and support seed planting in all it’s forms and great apples could come from any of them. But, the better the stock, the better the chances and I do think that intentional breeding has a very important place. Once the deed is done and that genetic material is mixed, anyone could potentially take advantage of it to make more specific crosses with specific goals in mind. I may even have pollen available this spring of some of my crosses, ready for anyone to take the next generational step.
How do apple seeds take to FREEZING?
(I think some or all of my seeds have sprouted in the fridge, and some are beyond useful for planting…and it’s January outside.) Without a controlled atmosphere/greenhouse, once the stratification period is up, how keep seeds from ruining?
Good question . About freezing
References say 35- 45 degrees F for stratification
So if you could keep them at just above freezing , they may store longer, until you have a place to plant.
Freezing may kill the ones allready sprouted ? , don’t know really .?
Last year , I did , like you , in the refrigerator, in the fall, many sprouted , at about this time of year. I put then in containers of compost outside covered with a remay frost blanket.
Some made it , some did not, but I have sufficient amount.
This year, I am just now thinking of stratification of Apple, I think if planted now, they may not sprout too soon.
I have tried to save the seed from most of the apples I have ate this winter ( a lot)
Maybe someone else will comment on freezing.
Or could test a few ,the next several days , thaw back out and see ?
Just found this , in M. Dirr 's book " Woody plant Propagation"
He says 23deg. F will inhibit germination, he does not say it won’t kill a sprouted seed
Thanks, hillbillyhort. I am afraid I’ve lost my seeds from hand pollinated crosses. If freezer would work, problem solved (if done to begin with and not after sprouting). Anyone else?