Christopher Gottschalk

Oct 23, 2019
Testing cider cultivars

Michigan State University graduate student Chris Gottschalk heads up a project assessing current known cider apple cultivars for productivity and cider use in Michigan.

A collection of apple trees includes 70 total hard cider cultivars, with 10 trees of each. The majority of the cultivars – 56 of them – are being grown at multiple sites across Michigan, from the state’s southwest corner to the Upper Peninsula. Not all of the trees are on commercial rootstocks, since some of the growers involved with the trial have their own preferences, but some of the rootstocks used are M.9, M.7 and B.9.

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The collection of cider apples represents “the full diversity of cider apples,” Gottschalk said. They include bittersharps, bittersweets, sharps and sweets with a variety of backgrounds.

“France, England, the U.S. are represented in there,” he said, gesturing toward a stand of trees.

Much of the scion wood material comes from the USDA collection and is already phenotyped and catalogued, but that data is being doublechecked and evaluated for relevance to Michigan growing conditions.

The cider trees are being evaluated for production quality. Future research could focus on their peculiar traits when made into cider. Or, as Gottschalk put it, “seeing what qualities each apple brings to the party.”

— Stephen Kloosterman, associate editor

Above, MSU graduate research assistant Christopher Gottschalk. Photo: Stephen Kloosterman

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