Award-winning cider maker, Sandford Orchards, is proud to announce that it is working with scientists from Bristol University to identify and preserve ancient apple varieties in their beautiful historic orchards in mid Devon. This ground breaking research aims to fingerprint thousands of cider apple trees in order to locate and propagate unique and threatened varieties.
Barny Butterfield, Chief Cidermaker at Sandford Orchards comments: “Apples are at the heart of everything that we do. Our cider mill is the oldest working mill in the UK and some of our orchards are centuries old. We take our stewardship of these precious natural wonders very seriously and we jumped at the opportunity to unlock some of the secrets of these orchards that have long been forgotten. By mapping our apple trees we will be able to preserve them for future generations, ensure diversity in our stock and secure many more centuries of cider enjoyment.”
Keith Edwards, Professor of Crop Genetics at Bristol University, is leading the new research which aims to identify and map the nation’s traditional cider apple varieties. By punching a small hole in leaves from individual trees, his team is able to collect samples for DNA testing, while geographically tagging the particular tree using the What3Words geo-positioning system.
The team has spent the summer taking DNA samples from hundreds of Sandford Orchards’ apple trees and has been surprised by the varieties being grown in these older orchards in the Crediton area, which has long been famed for its cider.
Professor Edwards explains: “We thought that, being well-established orchards, we might only find a few different cider apple varieties in each, but that has not been the case. We have fingerprinted around 400 samples and I believe there will be a great many different varieties, many of them unique.”
Barny is awaiting the results of the research with bated breath. He says: “By using genetic-fingerprinting techniques we are able to wind back the clock. We can map a particular variety and see where it crops up in places like Devon and Somerset. That allows us to start building the picture so that hopefully we can reclaim some old varieties which make great cider. You only need one apple tree to propagate a whole new orchard so once we have identified key varieties that we would like to increase our stock of we can start planning for the future.”
He continues: “Using the new techniques we will find apples that could be important in changing the type of ciders we make. Each apple variety will behave in a certain way according to the local conditions and, by having a much better knowledge of the rich diversity of trees in our orchards, we might find wonderful cider apples which are ready to take on the challenge of a changing environment.”
As well as the environmental benefits of preserving a diverse range of apple trees for the future, Barny is also thrilled at the prospect of a renaissance of delicious single batch ciders. He explains: “So it might be that we find a tree that is the only one of its kind in the whole country. Or perhaps there’s just one in my orchard but a few elsewhere. The great thing is, because we are mapping the trees, I am going to be able to collect enough fruit from those trees to make a small amount of single-apple cider.”
Barny continues: “ We are keenly awaiting the results of this research but whatever Professor Edwards and his team uncover the outcome can only be positive for the environment and for cider-lovers.”
For further information on Sandford Orchards please visit www.sandfordorchards.co.uk
In its ongoing support of the world around us – and of course its passion for apple trees – Thatchers Cider would like to help community groups and charities plant more trees this spring. So the Somerset cider maker is offering ten community groups the chance to receive ten apple trees each, ready for planting in their own community orchards or local environments.
So if you are part of a group that is planting trees this spring, simply let Thatchers know about your organisation, your orchard, and what planting trees means to you. Then on 18th February 2021 Thatchers will select the ten communities who’ll receive these very special apple trees.
“During these very difficult times, we’ve all come to appreciate even more the benefits of outdoor space,” says Martin Thatcher, fourth generation cider maker. “For those in towns and cities a community orchard can make such a difference to people’s well-being; in health and care environments small orchards too can provide respite and tranquillity throughout the year.”
Thatchers has over 500 acres of its own orchards in the West Country, that lock up approximately 182 tonnes of carbon each year.
Thatchers’ orchards are not just the source of raw ingredients for cider though. They are a haven for wildlife and an important contributor to the local ecosystem. Insects and invertebrates, birds, bats, pheasant, deer rabbits and hares to name but a few. And of course bees are vital to the health of our trees. With hives throughout our orchards, honey bees help us ensure effective pollination at blossom time.
Community groups wishing to be considered for the chance to receive ten trees from Thatchers Cider, should email email@example.com explaining about your community and why planting trees is important to you. Or visit Thatchers Facebook page.
Terms and Conditions
[Experiment set up by Catherine Chapman]
There are new updates, on the Apple Growers tab, about the progress of some of the apple research which is part funded by NACM via the Collaborative Training Partnership for Fruit Crop Research.
We have 2 new students this year:
Hayden Tempest studying “Radio-tagging earwigs to understand the breakdown in successful woolly apple aphid, Eriosoma lanigerum (Hausmann) control”
Marios Stamatiou studying “Managing living mulch (cover crops) to improve soil health (including nutrient cycling) and encourage natural enemies”
The full list of students and their studies are listed and if you would like further information please contact firstname.lastname@example.org
Orchard managers, apple growers and cidermakers from all over the country gathered on 1st August for the annual National Association of Cider Makers (NACM) Orchard and Machinery Day. This year, emphasis was on the importance of orchard management in producing the consistently high quality of fruit it needs in its cidermaking.
Hosted by Thatchers at their Shiplate orchard around 250 people from across the industry came along for the event. Gordon Johncox, NACM Chair, opened the orchard walk with an update about the cider market and NACM priorities to support a return to cider category growth. During the walk guests heard from industry experts in varying aspects of orchard management, and the importance of healthy orchards and apple production.
Advice on topics such as soil analysis and nutrition, hedgerow planting and the importance of fruit quality were shared by the Thatchers team, alongside experts including agronomist Matt Greep and cider apple expert John Worle.
Also attending the day were a number of PhD students currently taking part in the NIAB-EMR programme, supported by the NACM. Dr Louisa Robinsorn-Boyer from NIAB EMR gave an update on the importance of the joint industry PhD programme and the essential research that the students will carry out on cider apples over the course of three years.
The importance of long term research was again demonstrated by seeing the rows of newer apple varieties such as Angela, Lizzie and Prince William. These have been developed through research and innovation for many years, by the NACM and its members, extending the apple season and adding more flavour variety into the UK grown cider apple crop.
“Bringing the apple growing and cidermaking communities together in an event such as the Orchard and Machinery Day helps everyone understand the issues we as an industry are all facing – from politics, the changing market to climate change – so we can continue to make excellent products that people want to buy,” concluded Richard Johnson, quality manager at Thatchers Cider.
Richard Johnson, Chris Muntz-Torres (Thatchers), Liz Copas, Gordon Johncox (NACM Chair/CEO Aston Manor)
NERC CASE PHD STUDENT Alistair Campbell PhD, Improving pest control services
Alistair Campbell’s PhD investigated improving pest control services and beneficial insect conservation in cider apple orchards using multi-functional flower mixes and was published in 2014. The work was sponsored by Syngenta and run on Bulmers orchards and a number of conclusions were drawn:
- Mixed flower types attract a greater diversity of beneficial insects in apple orchards than mixes targeted to certain pollinators
- Some groups of beneficial insects may be affected by small changes in flower mix
- Some evidence for reduced leaf damage from increased predatory insect numbers, with no loss of yield
- Pollination can be a limiting factor for yield in cider apple orchard, with >80% of flower visits from wild pollinators
- There is a positive relationship between fruit set and solitary bees’ flower visits
- Provision of nesting sites for solitary bees would be beneficial
Further information and more details:
NACM is proud to be working with NIAB-EMR and the other partners to sponsor BBSRC CTP PhD students who are conducting cider apple relevant research as a part of their PhD. Over a series of features we will introduce you to each student and the topic that they are researching. To begin with, we look at an overview of the programme and how it will help to contribute to a secure and sustainable future for cider apple growing. For more information please contact us.
Magda, who is from Andalucía and who grew up on an orange and olive farm, has a BSc in Biology and a MSc in Biotechnology and Genetics through which she has gained extensive background knowledge in genetics. In 2014 she started working at NIAB-EMR as a research technician and during this time participated in several research projects in a multidisciplinary team.
Rootstocks are an essential component for successful tree fruit production, yet the below ground root systems are little understood. Her research will aim to identify the genetic basis of root system architecture in apple rootstocks and to associate root type with nutrient and water use efficiencies, and also anchorage in this woody perennial species. This research will contribute to the generation of new and improved rootstocks and could have significant potential impact for other high value perennial crops.