Grown Here at Home: Virginia Tech researching hard cider on Kentland Farm

Published: Oct. 7, 2019 at 9:39 AM EDT
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In a field at Virginia Tech’s Kentland farm there are 696 apple trees. It’s funded through a grant by the USDA. There are eight varieties that will be used to research hard cider.

"Our research project is focusing on the microbes that are associated with fruits, so bacteria and fungi and things like that, that live on the surfaces of the fruit." explained Susan Whitehead, assistant professor at Virginia Tech.

Researchers believe the plant might be able to respond to the microbes in a way that can change the flavor and even chemistry of the fruit.

"Most of the information that apple growers have is focused on production for fresh market apples, and there are some things you might do differently if your focus is on cider," Whitehead said.

Hard cider is a craft beverage that was traditionally produced in the United States.

"There’s many different styles. There’s sweeter ciders, but there’s also very dry ciders. It’s similar to wine or champagne. You can have really different ciders coming from different regions of the world," Whitehead said.

The research would help identify pest management practices and even ways to increase the quality of apples.

"In the long term we really hope that this research can benefit cider makers certainly, but could also benefit apple growers throughout Virginia and the rest of the U.S. and the world," said Whitehead.

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