A group of New York apple growers is seeking partners to market the new varieties.

Albion-based New York Apple Growers LLC, which does business as NYAG LLC, has formed to improve the quality of varieties it grows by striking a partnership with a university breeding program.

The managed apple group’s 143 grower members have secured exclusive rights to plant 950 acres of two Cornell University-developed varieties. The group’s growers plan to plant the new acreage from 2012 through 2015 with commercial production expected to bear fruit in 2015-16, said Jeff Crist, NYAG’s vice chairman and co-owner of Crist Bros. Orchards Inc., Walden, N.Y.

NYAG is developing marketing plans and intends to work with New York’s 25 fresh apple wholesalers and other national marketers to sell the premium varieties, Crist said.

Crist said many of the group’s growers have planted the Cornell varieties in their test plots and have seen the varieties that bear the best quality fruit.  He said NYAG plans to manage the fruit movement from growing to packing to marketing.

“For such a large apple producing region, the closely managed production and marketing of controlled varieties, with so many growers in one company, is unprecedented,” Crist said. “In the evolving apple market, and the demand for premium varieties to a large degree associated with premium pricing, this is potentially quite important to our future. We don’t see it as taking over the apple scene, but seen it as an important component.”

The premium varieties could account for 10%-15% of the growers’ production, Crist said.

Crist said he thinks NYAG members represent at least half of the state’s 51,097 apple acres.

Founders of NYAG LLC are Crist, Mason Forrence of Forrence Orchards Inc., Peru, N.Y., Bob Norris of Tree Crisp Orchards, Savannah, N.Y.,  Roger Lamont of Roger Lamont Farm LLC and Lamont Fruit Farm Inc., Albion, and Walt Blackler of Apple Acres LLC, Lafayette, N.Y.