BECOMING A CO-OPERATOR: GROWER MANAGED TEST ORCHARDS Guidelines for New Cooperators March 22, 2007


This information is for growers who want to test the University's fruit selections on their own property in co-operation with the Plant Sciences Department, University of Saskatchewan.
The purpose of this program is to obtain information on yield and fruit quality. Participants in this project will be expected to fill out questionnaires for 3 production years. It is believed that this data will be very useful to growers, researchers, government granting agencies (to help us get research money), and bankers (loans and insurance for growers).
We are inviting you to help us find the best and most reliable fruit selections. This will take years but, in the mean time, selling the fruit can be a profitable business venture as well. At this time we are not distributing numbered apple selections for testing. See descriptions of the three apple cultivars that we have released for commercial growers. There are five of our cherry selections that are offered for sale. See the propagators page for wholesale propagators licensed to sell our cherry selections. Read about the new Haskap Selections and where to buy them.

Becoming a Co-operator with the University of Saskatchewan

Our co-operators are growers who are getting into commercial fruit production and who are making business plans to that end. They are working with the Plant Sciences Department, University of Saskatchewan, to develop and test fruit cultivars for commercial production. (What's commercial size? 100 trees is really small, 550 might be good for a local Pick-your-own, wholesalers in the east have tens of thousands of trees). To qualify as a co-operator, you will need to plant at least 25 seedlings and/or 25 cloned plants (selections or cultivars) of one of the fruit species. For hazelnuts, cherries and haskap 25 seedling plants (grown from seed and each genetically different) will give us some opportunity to select a superior specimen. More is better. For each kind of fruit you decide to grow, we would like you to plant a few plants each of as many of the promising selections (cultivars) as possible. This will give us an opportunity to compare them under the unique conditions in your orchard.

Growers are required to sign a Non-Propagation Agreement with the University to grow our fruit selections and seedlings as a test co-operator.

We encourage our co-operators to become members of the Saskatchewan Fruit Growers Association and become active in one or more of the grower groups (e.g. cherries: ; haskap: contact ; and apples: contact ).

Apple Propagation Workshops

The least expensive way to start apple trees is to buy dwarfing apple rootstock (see the Suppliers List) and to learn to bud (i.e. bud-graft) your own trees to our advanced selections. You should purchase the rootstock and plant it in the orchard at orchard spacing and bud it there. You can learn to bud at the Propagation Workshop, which has been scheduled in August. (See "Schedule of Events" for details). We will supply the budwood for you to use in starting your trees.

You may order budwood from us or you may propagate more trees of our named cultivars (SK Prairie Sun, Prairie Sensation, Misty Rose and Autumn Delight) using budwood cut from your own orchard. Permission from us to do this should be requested unless it is done just to replace buds from the University, which were budded the previous year and failed to take. There will be a $0.40 royalty fee per tree for an actual increase in the number of trees of our cultivars that are propagated. There is a handling fee of $25.00 and the minimum charge is $30.00.  You may pickup the budwood or we can ship it collect, usually by Greyhound courier.

For budwood of older cultivars, which are public domain, that we cut, there is a charge of $0.30 per bud for cutting and administration and a handling fee of $25.00 per order. There is a minimum charge of $30.00 per order.

There are alternatives to budding your own apple trees. If you can't or don’t wish to bud your own apple trees, there are two options. Firstly, you can hire a person to do the budding in your new orchard. (For names of trained people contact Rick or Bob) Secondly, you can contract a licensed wholesale propagator to grow apple trees (usually in pots). If one of these alternatives were chosen, budwood could be ordered from us.
If you want to test our cherries, you can buy equal numbers of five selections from a wholesale propagator licensed by the University of Saskatchewan. Many of our co-operators are also buying some trees of standard cultivars like SK Carmine Jewel or Evans to compare with the new selections.

V3 and Ottawa 3 Apple Dwarfing Rootstocks

For sources see the Suppliers List. Ottawa 3 dwarfing rootstock has been used in prairie zones 2b and 3a for at least 2 years. It isn't perfect but we know its weaknesses and can suggest appropriate cultural practices (Be careful not to fertilize unless soil tests clearly indicate a nutrient deficiency. Under some conditions plants will need protection for the first winter. Keep the bud unions within approximately 5 cms of the soil line). V3 has been tested in warmer areas of North America with very good results. It appears to be at least as winter hardy as Ottawa 3 in the field, making it a promising dwarfing rootstock for zone 2b on the prairies. V3 is not as hardy as Ott 3 as a potted plant.

The use of Ott 3 and V3 will allow tree densities of between 545 to 726 trees per acre (1347 to 1793 trees per hectare) depending on row spacing and will facilitate the most convenient cultural practices. This is based on 5 ft. (1.5 m) between trees and from 12 to 16 ft. (3.7 to 4.9 m) between rows.
Growers in zone 2a who don't want to take the risk on Ott 3 are advised to buy crabapple seedling rootstocks and plant at 12 by 16 ft. (3.7 by 4.9 m), which will be 227 trees per acre (560 trees per hectare).


1. Rootstock planted in fall will be ready to bud in August of the next year.
2. Rootstock planted in spring will be ready to bud in August of the same year.
3. Start small and increase orchard size as you become familiar with the crop and develop a customer base.
4. We do not know how large an apple industry can be supported in Saskatchewan.
5. The world market for non-organic apples is over supplied at the present time and other producing areas have a marketing and distribution advantage for this product. Some countries are dumping apple products on the market.
6. We have production advantages such as lower land costs and fewer pests and diseases in Saskatchewan. It is not difficult to produce apples organically in rural areas and there are good marketing opportunities here.

Feel free to contact Bob or Rick with any questions that you might have.

Dr. R. H. (Bob) Bors, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor,
Department of Plant Sciences
51 Campus Drive
Saskatoon SK S7N 5A8
phone 306 966 8583
fax 306 966 5015

J. R. (Rick) Sawatzky
Plant Breeder Technician IV
Department of Plant Sciences
51 Campus Drive
Saskatoon SK S7N 5A8
phone 306 978 8316 or 966 5858
fax 306 978 8643

N B. If you have recently changed or acquired an email address, please email Rick Sawatzky so that he can record your new email address.

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