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Aurora got off to a discouraging start I

By Judie Steeves

n the apple breeding program at the Pacific Agri-food Research Centre at Summerland, they used to throw out the yellow apples.

So, when a new cultivar fruited with a yellow apple instead of the standard red shades, they considered that one a failure.

They’d deal with thousands of seedlings, recalls Richard MacDonald, who was the technician for the breeding program for more than three decades until his retirement last year—and many of them were a cross of Splendour and Gala varieties. Only the occasional yellow-coloured cultivar was kept, including the 8S-69-23 because of its flavour and storability.

That is, until they bit into the 8S-69-23.

Introduced to the public through a Canada-wide naming contest that concluded in the fall of 2003, the 8S-69-23 became the Aurora Golden Gala, a name chosen by a resident of Ottawa.

Unfortunately, the timing was awful. People all across the

make changes that get it better each year.” From the forks on the forklift that carries bins around the orchards to the bins they’re in, handling the Aurora meant making changes to how things were done. For instance, they changed the forks on the forklift from four inches to six inches so the bottom of the bin is supported better and installed bumpers at the corners so the bins won’t flex when they’re being moved. Every bump results in a bruise.

The packing line is run at half speed and specially- made foam trays hold the apples apart in the boxes, giving each a soft ride to market.

“Anything with an edge on it must be cushioned. If the apples bump together there will be damage. “Worst of all, after all we do, the last guy in the produce department can negate it all,” he concluded. On the positive side, fingertip bruising will go away with seven days of rest, advised another Auvil presenter. He admitted at present, Auroras provide them with the least return per bin of any apple variety they grow, but he said they still believe it’s also the best apple they grow. “It simply costs more to handle this apple,” commented Hough.

And, they grow 100 acres of Auroras, as well as 1,230 acres of Granny Smith, Fuji, Honeycrisp, Gala, Cripps Pink and Braeburn apples and Rainier and Bing cherries. Auvil grows high-density plantings of Aurora on a specially-created upside-down A-frame tatura trellis system, to maximize the benefits of sunlight and use mechanized platforms for picking.

8 British Columbia FRUIT GROWER • Spring 2011

“But no one wanted yellow apples. People associated a yellow apple with apples with some softness,” explains MacDonald.

Richard MacDonald easily. They de-listed it.

That discouraged a lot of growers, Kingsmill comments. “The co-op is just not structured to handle small volumes of new varieties. They’re just not equipped to handle them,” he says.

And, that’s where PICO comes in. It’s the reason the ‘Born in B.C. Raised in the Okanagan’ program was launched Continued on next page

country had become excited about this new apple bred in Canada, but they couldn’t get any to try, because few growers had planted it.

“It was a bit of a fiasco,” admits John Kingsmill, CEO of the Okanagan Plant Improvement Corporation. “There was all that publicity and none were available yet.” Growers did begin to plant the new apple about which there had been so much hype, in hopes of cashing in on it, but they found it was a bit difficult to grow.

Although it is a fairly vigorous tree with abundant spurs and it sets fruit heavily, it must be thinned to achieve fruit size.

In the orchard, it must be picked very carefully to avoid causing marks on the fruit.

Then, the co-op packinghouse handled it for just a couple of years before giving up because it bruised so

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