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The Importance of Fruit Research and Problems Currently Facing Scientists

Sam

Left to right Dr. Robert Andersen, of Cornell, Sam Benowitz of Raintree Nursery and Gary Moulton of WSU Mt Vernon.

It was too expensive in our latest catalog to tell you in detail, some important things about fruit research, but here on the web we’ve got lots of room among the electrons. You may know that the future of fruit research in the U.S. is in danger, but let me explain how, why, what it has to do with you and what you can do about it. Most, if not all states are facing budget crunches. As taxes have been cut, so have the budgets of State Universities.

Here in Washington State that has meant that the variety trials done by the Washington State University have been eliminated. It is the variety trials at WSU Mt. Vernon station and similar stations throughout the nation that provide you, the home fruit grower with the information about which of tens of thousands of possible varieties will thrive in your yard. The State Universities also do testing on cultural practices, pest control and other issues to show you how to best grow fruits (and other plants) yourself. Each state’s county agricultural extension service then takes this information and gives it to you, the taxpayer. The information is also provided to gardening professionals and to newspaper, radio and TV garden writers, who pass it on to you. (For example in Western Washington, where do you think garden experts like Ciscoe Morris get the information they pass on to you…from the Experiment Station, that’s where.)

In addition, many states also do plant breeding where they, for instance, pollinize the flower of a very good tasting apple with the pollen of a multiple disease resistant apple. They then plant tens of thousands of seedlings so they can come up with one new variety that is better than what already exists. Most of the varieties in the Raintree catalog, many of which are producing delicious fruit right now in your yard, are the result of this research. Some of them are NY 101, NY 111, NY 858, Seneca and Long john Plums; Black Gold, White Gold, Surefire and NY 518 Cherry; Liberty and NY 75414 Apples etc, etc, etc. Look for them on our website.

Instead of paying taxes for fruit research a person can save money on their taxes by trying out thousands of varieties themselves, planting millions of seedlings and figuring out themselves, through scientific trials, how best to grow each type of plant. Or they could save money on taxes by not growing any plants in their yard. And of course by not having libraries and not having universities and not having scholarships and loans and only allowing people with well to do parents to go to college will save tax money…but alas, I digress.

In Washington State we are lucky. Part of the lost funds are being made up by volunteer organizations. If you join the group Western Washington Fruit Research Foundation, you can help fund this important research and variety trials in our state. And by doing so get delicious fruit to sample and educational field days to attend. See the website www.wwfrf.org for more information. However, western Washington is unique. Most other states don’t have volunteer organizations that are funding fruit research. Even in Western Washington the volunteer funding is inadequate and needs your help.

Research in New York State

In the state of New York, Cornell University’s Geneva Research Station has been a leader in fruit research and breeding for 100 years. Ironically they just celebrated their 100th birthday this summer, at the same time that they announced that for the first time in a century they don’t have the money to replace the Stone Fruit Breeder Dr. Bob Andersen who is retiring. Valiantly the other fruit breeders remaining are trying to keep Dr Andersen’s existing trials going, though they really don’t have the time. However, there may be no new breeding and variety trials. Look through the Raintree catalog and you will see lots of plums, cherries, apples etc that come from the breeding programs at Cornell. I’ve listed many above. There is some wonderful stone fruit breeding in California. However most of us in the U.S.A. don’t live in a California climate. Most of the varieties that thrive there don’t thrive here or in most of the colder parts of the United States. If most of us are going to have varieties that work for us, they are going to come from places like Cornell and there aren’t any places in the U.S. like Cornell. Another interesting thing about Cornell’s Geneva station is that students from around the world go there to study. Now with Dr. Andersen’s breeding work coming to an end, foreign students will no longer be going there to train. Dr. Andersen told me that a top ranking official in the Iranian government and also experts from Iraq and other countries have trained at Cornell. This means that alot of the top people in governments hostile to our country, trained in our country. This means that there is a large reservoir of good will and friendship, and understanding among the leaders of the world that is deemed by New York officials, to no longer be worth supporting. If our universities no longer train these people and they instead train in China or Japan or say France, then what will the United States have lost?

Homeland Security

It is ironic that our country has $87 billion dollars for homeland security. Isn’t having a secure food supply having homeland security. We thought so in WWII when everyone was encouraged to plant victory gardens. Now we are encouraged to keep going to the mall and doing the things we normally do or else the enemy will have won…Alas I digress again.

HOW TO SUPPORT THE GENEVA NY EXPERIMENT STATION FRUIT RESEARCH

To make a long story, not quite so long, Dr. Alan Lakso is the Chairman of the Dept. of Horticulture at Cornell University. You can write to him at Cornell University, Department of Horticultural Sciences; Geneva NY 14456
Write him and tell him why you think the “Stone Fruit” which includes Peaches, Plums, Cherries, Apricots etc is important to you and why you would like to see it continue. Also tell the Chairman that you would like them to keep on Dr. Andersen’s talented and dedicated technician Jay Freer. Jay could keep alot of the important work going until they are able to hire a new stone fruit breeder. What would for sure keep it going would be a large grant, but a letter will help too.

I believe this is correct, that a program at Cornell that is really thriving is the wine grape research because it is funded by money from the United States tobacco companies. Nowadays whoever has the most money gets to have the fruit researchers and gets to have them work on whatever projects they want. Almost every researcher from Washington State to New York State and in between is being bought by big industries. If a researcher brings in private money then he continues to be funded. The big industry then gets all the tax money we are still paying for upkeep on the Experiment Station’s facilities and equipment (which comes to many millions of dollars) as a bonus for supporting the researcher.

But what about the research that helps us individual citizens who don’t own a huge industry. What about self reliance and what about people growing their own healthy food. It may be worth alot, but its not rewarded in our current way of running governments. If you want to grow your healthy fruit and eat it too, then you better step forward!

To add insult to injury, private companies are paying for the exclusive patent rights of all these varieties that were developed at public Universities with public taxpayers funds. This way the university doesn’t have the expense of paying for the patent and gets some money back in royalties on plants sold. So alot of the varieties bred and developed with taxpayer funds are owned by large private companies. It is illegal for you, the taxpayer, to grow these varieties in your yard! Some of them you can buy from a very large nursery but some of the varieties are offered only to commercial growers and you could be prosecuted if you grow them in your yard. The research station could be prosecuted for providing you with information about these varieties. This is in Stark contrast to how Cornell made varieties available in the past. What they have done in the past is let anyone who wants to, grow the varieties developed. They then charged a royalty of about 75 cents a tree that you would pay to the grower. The grower paid it to Cornell. Everyone could take advantage of the excellent varieties offered. Under this new way of doing things, a University could and has sold exclusive rights to a whole bunch of varieties at one time to a big company. This company then would offer the varieties that sold in large quantities to commercial growers and sit on the so called minor varieties that would maybe be only of interest to a home gardener in a certain part of the county. Cornell, facing a budget crunch and needing to get as much money as possible, is deciding how they want to make their varieties available in the future. Raintree Nursery is working with them, and successfully so, to keep making at least home garden varieties available to anyone willing to pay the per tree royalties.

The individual taxpayers of this country have lots more money than the tobacco industry. However the only way we are organized to fund what is important to us is through taxes. And through voluntary efforts. But who is more likely to dedicate their energy to a cause? A professional lobbyist paid $100,000 a year or a volunteer citizen who is already overworked and underpaid? Unless the answer is the volunteer citizen, our planet is in a great deal of trouble. So I guess its easy to support wine grape research. (wine grape research deserves support too) Just smoke more cigarettes and drink more alcohol. To support fruit research you will have to give money or write letters.

I better get back to work providing you with quality fruit trees and berry bushes. That’s what you pay me for. Order some, please and please support fruit tree research so we can keep the wonderful varieties coming!

Sam Benowitz
Owner Raintree Nursery

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