Apple Cultivar Findings Could Improve Apple Disease Management


A plant pathologist at West Virginia University’s Tree Fruit Research and Education Center has studied and coordinated publication of research on disease susceptibility of new and emerging apple cultivars in the eastern United States. Diseases of apples cost the tree fruit industry in West Virginia well over a million dollars in losses every year.


The old saying says that one rotten apple can spoil the whole bunch. For West Virginia’s tree fruit industry, rotten apples and other diseases are a real concern. Fruit diseases cost the tree fruit industry well over a million dollars of losses annually.


Over the past ten years, Dr. Alan Biggs, a plant pathologist at the WVU Kearneysville Tree Fruit Research and Education Center, has collected data on the relative susceptibility of new apple cultivars and unnamed selections to important plant diseases in the Mid-Atlantic region. Biggs, in cooperation with colleagues in North Carolina, Virginia, Michigan, New York, Massachusetts, and the USDA, was the lead author of a series of scientific articles describing the findings. The pathogens studied included apple scab, powdery mildew, rust diseases, and various other fruit rots and blemishes caused by fungi. These diseases are responsible for as much as three-quarters of the losses resulting from diseases in the region. Biggs has been conducting research to address the biology, epidemiology and control of these diseases. (View poster summary here (pdf)).


"We've found that there are large variations in the susceptibility of new apple cultivars to the major diseases in our region. When we know in advance how a newly introduced cultivar will perform, then we can implement management strategies that are appropriate for the level of susceptibility. This should significantly reduce unnecessary fungicide applications," Biggs said. He also hopes that this knowledge will help homeowners and other hobbyists to select cultivars with multiple disease resistance so that fewer chemicals are needed to produce good quality fruit at home. Biggs’ goal is to develop an integrated approach to fruit disease management to reduce losses resulting from multiple diseases.




USDA Regional Project NE-183 and NE-1006
Hatch Act


The principal counties served are Jefferson, Berkeley, Morgan, and Hampshire (95% of the commercial fruit industry is in the state’s eastern panhandle)


Dr. Alan R. Biggs
Professor of Plant Pathology, Division of Plant and Soil Sciences, and Extension Specialist
West Virginia University - Kearneysville Tree Fruit Research and Education Center
P.O. Box 609, Kearneysville, WV 25430

Phone: 304-876-6353
Fax: 304-876-6034