Purdue apples serve multitude of people, purposes

November 18, 2010

Eric Lynch, Office of Technology Commercialization innovation strategy manager, places GoldRush apples in a container. The apple is one of the most popular Purdue apples grown in more than a dozen countries. About 1,000 pounds of apples were picked by Lynch and several volunteers from the Office of Technology Commercialization. The apples were donated to Lafayette Urban Ministry's St. John's Food Pantry. (Photo provided by Purdue Research Foundation)

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WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – Purdue University apple varieties are finding their way across the globe and into farmers' orchards and people's homes while adding to the economic base of Indiana.

"Purdue's apple breeding program started in the mid-1940s as part of the PRI Apple Breeding Program," said Jules Janick, the James Troop Distinguished Professor of Horticulture. "The goal of the program was to develop scab-resistant apples, and all of the Purdue apple varieties originated from the PRI project."

Sixteen varieties have been released, and a number of these are being grown or tested in Europe, Canada, Chile, South Africa, Turkey, New Zealand, Australia and elsewhere around the world. Many are being used as parents in breeding programs, and Purdue is known as the source of scab-resistant apples.

The PRI project was a collaboration among Purdue, Rutgers and the University of Illinois. A side benefit to the natural breeding of scab-resistant apples is that pesticide use is greatly reduced in apples bred through the program. The present Purdue program has many selections ready for commercialization.

"In 1948 we didn't think about the environmental implications, we just wanted to serve the needs of the fruit growers," Janick said. "Now we are seeing more interest in disease-resistance methods because of the need to reduce pesticides."

The Crimson Crisp apple was bred to be disease-resistant through a research partnership among Purdue University, Rutgers and University of Illinois. The apple is one of 25 varieties that have been commercialized through the Purdue Research Foundation's Office of Technology Commercialization. (Photo provided by Purdue Research Foundation)

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Some of the more popular Purdue apple breeds include GoldRushtm, which has a crisp, tart flavor with long storage that has become a cult apple; Crimson Crisptm, a crunchy, spicy apple; and Pixie Crunchtm, an apple ideal for kids because of its smaller size.

The success of the Purdue apples has contributed to Indiana's apple-growing industry. Indiana ranks 12th nationally in apple production with an annual harvest of roughly 1.2 million bushels grown on about 4,000 acres of land. Most apple-growing orchards are fewer than 30 acres and are managed by small business owners. The Indiana apple industry brings in revenue to the state of more than $7 million annually, according to the USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service.

To celebrate Purdue apples and Global Entrepreneurship Week, the Purdue Research Foundation's Office of Technology Commercialization is promoting the varieties of Purdue apples that have been developed and commercialized to the international community.

Jules Janick, Purdue University's James Troop Distinguished Professor of Horticulture, picks Purdue apples that have been bred to be more disease-resistant. The 25 varieties of Purdue apples are grown around the world. (Photo provided by Purdue Research Foundation.)

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"The apple industry is important to Indiana, and we wanted to find a way to recognize all the entrepreneurs working in the field and bring awareness to Purdue efforts in the industry," said Elizabeth Hart-Wells, assistant vice president for the Purdue Research Foundation Office of Technology Commercialization. "We also wanted to do something that would benefit our community, so we spent some time in an apple orchard where the Purdue varieties are grown and picked, and then we donated the apples to a local food pantry."

The 1,000 pounds of apples are from the Purdue's College of Agriculture orchard and were picked by the foundation's Office of Technology Commercialization. The fruit was donated to the Lafayette Urban Ministry's St. John's Food Pantry. The Lafayette Urban Ministry was established in 1972 by an ecumenical group of local churches that serves the area's poor. Last year more than 3,000 individuals volunteered in the program, which served about 6,500 Tippecanoe County households. 

Writer: Cynthia Sequin, 765-588-3340

Sources: Elizabeth Hart-Wells, 765-588-3481, eahart-wells@prf.org

               Jules Janick, 765-494-1329, janick@purdue.edu

Related website:

Purdue Horticulture and Landscape Architecture

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