Several Extension programs in the U.S. and Canada address the universal needs of growers interested in apple production, from establishing and managing an orchard to marketing apples and value-added products. These resources can be helpful to Montana growers if they first understand Montana's unique climate and keep a few key factors in mind:

  • Montana's climate varies. Diurnal temperature changes can exceed 40°F and can be even greater from day to day with sudden freezing temperatures, especially in crucial shoulder seasons. This can be hard on plants as they are breaking and going into dormancy, leaving trees vulnerable to frost damage and winter injury.
  • Montana has a short growing season, with much of the state having only 135 or fewer frost-free days.
  • Montana's precipitation in growing areas is often less than 14", requiring irrigation to grow a successful apple crop.
  • Montana's apple pests and diseases are different than other growing regions. Focus should be on controlling the most damaging pests, including codling moth, fire blight, weeds, voles, and other wildlife. There are also secondary pests like aphids, thrips, powdery mildew, scab and cedar-apple rust.

Montana State University Extension's publication, Growing Fruit Trees, provides some important initial considerations for growing fruit trees in Montana.

Extension resources

Washington State University:

Serving the world's largest apple growing region, the WSU Tree Fruit program offers several resources for establishing orchards to managing pests and diseases to planning strategically with enterprise budgets. Additionally, WSU is a leading resource for growers interested in cider production.

University of Minnesota:

University of Minnesota is a world leader in cold-hardy apple breeding. Their apple resources focus on growing apples in cold winters and hot dry summers, a climate that is similar to Montana. Their Before You Start an Apple Orchard publication is excellent.

University of Idaho, Utah State University, and Colorado State University:

These three universities have collaborated on a pest-focused resource, the Intermountain Tree Fruit Guide, in addition to having several of their own helpful resources, such as Idaho's resources for small-acreage growers including a publication on Growing Apples for Local Markets in Cold Climates, and Utah State University's collection of recorded presentations from their Fruit Schools.

Michigan State University:

Michigan State has helpful resources for established growers. Their site includes some particularly good financial information for marketing and business development.

Penn State:

Penn State provides great general resources for apple growers, including a beginner's guide with budget worksheets and lists of equipment. Also a good resource for leaf tissue analysis.

Cornell University:

Cornell is a resource for those interested in growing cider apples and dessert apples. From pest management to business management the tools provided can be amended to help orchardists across the U.S. better manage their orchards.

Other resources

In addition to these resources, growers may want to subscribe to one of the leading fruit production periodicals, including Good Fruit Grower, The Western Fruit Grower, Capital Press, and Fruit Grower News for current information on developing technologies, leading research, and issues facing the industry.