Nov 2, 2020Kevin Maloney: Developing seriously good apples at Cornell AgriTech
Kevin Maloney is a research specialist who works in the apple breeding program at Cornell AgriTech, part of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.
Maloney has worked on the Geneva campus for 35 years, where he has been collaborating with Susan Brown, Herman M. Cohn Professor of Agriculture and Life Science, on the release of popular apple varieties like SnapDragon and RubyFrost. Here, he talks about his experience working for the oldest apple breeding program in the U.S.
How did you become interested in apple breeding?
Previous work experience in the grape and small fruit breeding programs on the Geneva campus peaked my interest, and this lead me to pursue a position in the apple breeding program with Susan Brown. New York is a leading apple producing state, and the industry has tremendous support for apple research. Cornell’s apple breeding program also has a strong tradition of research excellence, and I was fortunate to join this prestigious program.
What would most people not expect about working in an apple breeding program?
Apple breeding is a long process. Many people are unaware that apples are extremely juvenile as seedlings and do not bear fruit for several years. As a result, it takes many years to make improvements.
Apple breeding is also challenging because everyone prefers different flavors and textures. There are many good apple variety offerings at stores and farm stands, which raises the bar and makes it more difficult for new cultivars to reach the broader market.
However, trying new and unreleased apples is definitely a perk of my job. Many people would be surprised to know that not all apples are pleasant to eat though, especially when derived from a cross with a scab-resistant apple, for example.