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New York's newest big apple, the Fortune, debuts on Jan. 10

GENEVA, N.Y. -- A new big apple in New York will be introduced Jan. 10 by breeders from Cornell University's Agricultural Experiment Station in Geneva, N.Y. The Fortune apple -- a large, tasty, eating apple -- will debut at the annual New York State Horticultural Show in Rochester, N.Y.

Fortune is "gently sweet and reminiscent of the Delicious apple that is part of its genetic makeup, but with a juicy McIntosh snap when bitten into," wrote Mimi Sheraton, food author, in the November 1995 issue of Audubon Magazine.

The Fortune is the latest in a long line of achievements by the Geneva Apple Breeding Program and the second apple release under the leadership of Susan K. Brown, Cornell associate professor of horticultural sciences. "By the turn of the century, we expect Fortune to be well on its way to successful commercial acceptance," Brown said. "Growers have the product on the market, and there is already good commercial demand. Usually it takes 15 to 20 years for an apple to develop commercial acceptance -- as it did with Empire -- which the Agriculture Experiment Station released 30 years ago."

Bred for both the processing and fresh markets, the Fortune apple was once known as just a tasty little number: New York 429. It was one of the first apples to gain high praise and commercial status before being officially named or introduced. Since it was so successful in trials and considering that its numerical name "429" sounded like fortune, growers later requested that it officially bear that name.

The high-colored apple is a hybrid offspring of the Schoharie Spy and the Empire apple. The apple has cream-colored flesh, crisp texture and stores well.

In 115 years of horticulture at Cornell's Agricultural Experiment Station in Geneva, more than 224 new fruit varieties have been introduced that were developed in New York, including 63 varieties of apple. In 1995, the New York Agricultural Statistics Service projected production of more than 1 billion pounds of apples in New York. Five varieties developed at the experiment station -- Cortland, Empire, Jonagold, Jonamac and Macoun -- account for almost 20 percent of the state's total production.

More than 3,300 apple varieties or genetically unique lines are grown at the experiment station and U.S. Department of Agriculture's Agricultural Research Service orchards at Geneva, providing important germplasm for future research. Geneva's apple collection was begun by horticulturist Emmet S. Goff in 1883 and has grown from 700 varieties of apples and crabapples to what is now considered the largest collection of apples in the world.

"With access to our rich collection of apple genes, scientists at Geneva will continue to provide exceptional, new and improved apple varieties in the future for producers and consumers," said James E. Hunter, director of the Agricultural Experiment Station.

Characteristics selected for in the apple breeding program at Geneva use both traditional and molecular techniques to improve insect and disease resistance, fruit flavor, size, texture, firmness, storage and shelf life, tree productivity, tolerance to cold weather and tree structure.

A handful of nurseries throughout the United States are licensed by the Cornell Research Foundation to sell Fortune apple trees. The foundation welcomes inquiries.

"Fortune is available in limited supply from select retailers," said Mike Durando, president of the New York Apple Association. "How much production expands is determined by the response of the retail trade. Initial response has been very positive."

Lee Peters, vice president of sales and marketing at Fowler Bros. Inc., Wolcott, N.Y., a firm that grows, packs and ships apples worldwide, said, "Our next available supply of Fortune will be October 1996. Consumer response has been excellent this year. Fortune is worth waiting for." -30- Editors:

The Fortune apple will "meet the press" at a news conference, with one of its primary developers, Susan Brown, Cornell associate professor of horticultural sciences, at the New York State Horticultural Show, Dome Center, 2695 East Henrietta Road, Rochester, N.Y., at noon, Wednesday, Jan. 10. For more news conference information, contact Linda McCandless of the Agricultural Experiment Station, (315) 787- 2417.