Cider Apple Research at WARC
WARC has a long history of apple research starting with the founding of the station in 1907. Today, research focuses on identifying bitter apple varieties that can withstand Montana's climate, pests and diseases while producing quality juice for local and regional craft cider makers. Below are descriptions of current cider research at WARC. For more information on growing Montana dessert and cider apples visit our producer resources page.
Bitter Apple Cultivar Trial
In summer 2017, six cultivars of bitter apples were grafted on M26 rootstock at WARC. The cultivars include Dabinett, Marie Menard, Binet Rouge, Major, Chisel Jersey and Muscadett de Dieppe. Once apples have matured to full production, data will be collected on yields, juice quality and overall performance in a Montana orchard system. The experiment design allows for future treatments to be added to the system comparing performance under various weed control, irrigation management and fertility treatments.
Budwood for grafting bitter apple cultivars on cold hardy rootstock. Photo credit: Michael Billingsley, Western Cider Co.
Cider Apple Training System Trial
In spring 2018, WARC will install a trial comparing two training systems for growing cider apples. Trees will be planted in a high-density trellised system using G935 rootstock with trees planted 3-4 ft apart and a free standing system using MM.106 rootstock with trees planted 7-10 ft apart. Cultivars included in this trial are Golden Russet, Harrison and Binet Rouge. The training systems will be compared for production, harvest efficiency, flavor and weed competition.
High-density cider apple planting at Billingsley Orchard, Stevensville, MT. Photo credit: Michael Billingsley, Western Cider Co.