The history of the collection, in fact a core collection, starts in the seventies of the last century. Workers from experimental orchard "De Schuilenburg", then part of the institute TNO, initiated the collection of old varieties that were not longer used in commercial fruit production. Deliberations and agreements on European and global level in the eighties, finally have resulted in the collection present in Randwijk today.
The first plantation in 1976 was situated at the former institute IMAG in Wageningen and a more extended collection in Zeewolde where the first trees were planted in the spring of 1978. The collection in Wageningen was mainly meant for research on susceptibility to the main fungal diseases scab (Venturia inaequalis) and powdery mildew (Podosphaera leucotricha). Research on susceptibility of early pests (aphids, winter moth, apple blossom weevil, apple sawfly) with late sprouting and late flowering varieties was an important aim (phenology of variety and pest insect). The IMAG orchard in Wageningen, comprised in 1982 of approximately seventy varieties.
In Zeewolde almost 360 varieties were planted, amongst several of the IMAG-varieties. The main goal in Zeewolde was identification of the collected accessions and observation of susceptibility to scab and mildew. Besides, also pomological and phenological observations were done.
Another aim was to assess the influence of varieties on the development of diseases and pests. To monitor this, a series of observation years and a heterogeneous collection of sufficient size is required. The influence of differences in hairiness and leaf texture on the biological control of red spider mite and apple rust mite (Aculus schlechtendali) by predatory mites (Typhlodromus sp.) and the importance of antagonists of scab on leaves of different varieties have been studied too. In brief, in all cases it dealt with the interaction of host plants (apple varieties) and pests and diseases.
In experimental orchard "De Schuilenburg" in Kesteren, also a small collection of old varieties was located. A part of these varieties was included in a plot with 5 old apple varieties (Sterappel, Zoete Ermgaard, Zijden Hemdje, Court Pendu, and Bramley’s Seedling), 10 cultivars and selections from breeding programmes, all planted in 1978. For comparison, also the old cv. Schone van Boskoop was planted; this cultivar is considered as only medium scab susceptible. In this experimental plot, from 1979 till 1982, observations were done to notice whether and to which amount immune or field resistant varieties can help to achieve a disease free plantation.
Selection of the core-collection
The first screening of the collection and the compilation of the register was done with use of existing descriptions in (old) handbooks and literature. Dependent on availability, completeness, and correctness a revised register was made with attention to synonyms. Besides, the overlap with the well-known UK National Apple Collection (Brogdale) was checked.
After the screening, 184 varieties remained. Considering the possibility of (then mainly future) genetic engineering, it was decided to preserve particularly varieties with certain extreme characteristics, as fruit size, flowering time, picking time, skin (smooth or russet), etc.. To enable a well-considered choice, with all 184 varieties, a list was made with 20 characteristics, both fruit and tree, based upon all the systematic and non-systematic observations that were available. Finally, the fruit and tree characteristics, eating quality, bitter pit, production, abundance of flowering, second flowering, fruit set drop, June drop, fruit size, russeting, scab, and mildew have been used for the selection, with emphasis on three first mentioned. Eighty-two of the remaining 85 varieties were planted in in the experimental orchard of the former Research Station for Fruit Growing (PFW) in Wilhelminadorp in the province Zeeland, The Netherlands in the spring of 1986; all with 2 x 2 trees on M.9 rootstock.
In Augustus 1996, new trees were made by chipbudding on M.9. In the spring of 1998, these trees were planted in the experimental orchard of Wageningen University & Research in Randwijk. One year later, the trees have been replanted to the current plot.
From January 2002, the collection is under management of CGN and forms part of the National Genetic Resources Program, financed by the Ministry of Agriculture, Nature Management and Food quality.
Since, the number of accessions extended from 124 in 2004 to 204 in 2018.