ALLAN McLean, owner of Harcourt apple producing business McLean Brothers, discovered a new variety of apple growing among his orchards more than 10 years ago. Now the variety, dubbed “Crimson Snow” grows in trial orchards at Harcourt, US, Italy and France and could be available to consumers through Australia’s major retailers some time this year. Mr McLean is quick to clarify that unlike bigger apple producers, he did not “create” the new variety, he simply discovered it. In 1999 the fourth generation apple grower stumbled across an apple tree that stood among others in the orchards.
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The stand-out tree was grown from a seed Mr McLean obtained from his nursery partner which propagated trees from original cuttings of trees. “It was different to all the other trees on the block, that year it was a very dull year for colour in apples but this tree was very different in colour.” Not to rest on his laurels, Mr McLean followed his curiosity and would spend the next decade determining the best methods and areas to grow and store the new variety. While big-time producers splash funds in cross breeding apples to create new varieties and new variations of existing varieties, discovering a variety is rare. The Crimson Snow apple’s strong colouring, different taste and low acid levels sets it apart from other apples. As the sole discoverer of the breed, Mr McLean and his wife Sharee own the breeder’s rights to this variety. Only growers who obtain the proper permission from the McLeans and pay the right royalties can grow the variety. “We’re hoping to get good royalties from it,” an optimistic Mr McLean said. Just three weeks ago, the McLeans arrived home from a trip to visit their business partner’s test orchards in northern Italy where growth of the new variety looks promising. “It’s been pretty exciting, especially to travel to other countries and see our apples growing overseas. They’re really excited about it in Italy,” he said.The variety is growing well at Harcourt too, but Mr McLean believes they now face the challenge of convincing the rest of the industry to take on the new variety.“Now we’ve got to convince people it’s a worthwhile variety, because it is something new,” he said.The new variety’s progression onto the consumer market comes among a series of good news at McLean Brothers. Mr McLean said the business is enjoying “the best crop” it’s had for many years. The turbulent rain and hail at the start of last year saw McLean Brothers lose up to 50 per cent of its crops. Since then it has been an uphill battle to recover losses. But recent optimal weather conditions have created a sunny outlook for the business, which has more than 50 hectares of orchards spread across Harcourt, Harcourt North and Sutton Grange. “It’s the best crop that we’ve had since 2008. It’s a good feeling because it’s been a difficult time, we’ve dealt with drought, floods and all kinds of problems. We’re happy to now have a decent crop,” Mr McLean said.