Ministry of Agriculture

'SPA440' (NICOLA™) Apple

Photos courtesy Agriculture & Agri-Food Canada

'SPA440' (NICOLA™) is a large bicolored apple that stores well. It flowers very late in the apple bloom season, and is picked in middle to late October in Summerland, slightly before Fuji. The fruit has sweet, crisp, juicy cream-colored flesh. It has a yellow ground colour and red blush over colour covering about 85% of the fruit skin. 'SPA440' has better storage quality and shelf life than most other bicoloured apples in the Summerland collection. It retains good texture and juiciness for at least 5 months in air storage at 1°C, and has excellent shelf life.

The tree is productive and regular bearing, with flat branch angles and spreading growth habit. It is not subject to pre-harvest drop.

Trademark protection is being sought for the name NICOLA™ . The district around Summerland, BC was once known as N'kwala's Prairie, in honor of Chief N'kwala who held the property. N'kwala's name was frequently anglicized as 'Nicola'.


'SPA440' resulted from a cross between 'Splendour' and 'Gala' at the Pacific Agri-Food Research Centre (PARC), Summerland, British Columbia, Canada in 1981. It was tested as SPA-440.

Fruit Description

  • Shape: Round to round-conic, symmetrical.

  • Size: Large, similar to 'Fuji'.

  • Colour: Bicoloured apple with a predominant cherry red colour over a yellow/green background.

  • Skin russet: Russet low (2%) on cheeks and lenticels, but characteristically present in stem bowl, rarely breaking over shoulder. Russet more severe in cool wet growing conditions.

  • Fruit stem: Long, thin
  • Texture: Juicy, firm and crisp, slightly coarse. Cut flesh browns.

  • Flavour: Somewhat starchy and faintly astringent at harvest, requires 4-6 weeks of cold air storage to mature flavor. Astringency dissipates in storage. Sweet, aromatic, refreshing.

  • Flowering season: Late season, after 'Fuji', slightly ahead of 'Rome Beauty'.

  • Maturity season: In Summerland, Oct. 11 to 15 for first pick, slightly before 'Fuji' and well after 'Delicious' or 'Spartan'. Requires two picks, the second about 5 days after the first.

  • Keeping quality and sensory attributes: Fruit of 'SPA440' has a long air storage life (≥ 5 mo at 1°C) and good shelf life after storage. Sensory attributes are shown in Figure 1 relative to Fuji and Royal Gala.

  • Use: Dessert apple, appropriate for medium to long term storage.

    Photo courtesy Sandy Emmond, PICO

Tree Characteristics

  • Vigor: Moderate. Slightly less than Fuji or Gala, but greater than weak cultivars like Honeycrisp or Braeburn.

  • Bearing habit: Bears chiefly on spurs and short shoots. Some bare wood. Regular bearing if thinned, negligible pre-harvest fruit drop, good precocity.

  • Productivity: Productivity on M.9 slightly less than 'Fuji', but with similar yield efficiency. For trees on M.9 after 5 crops, cumulative yield was 68.8 ± 3.6 kg per tree for 'SPA440', 79.9 ± 5.1 for 'Fuji' and 36.1 ± 1.4 for 'Spartan'. These figures exclude dropped fruit, which was significant only for 'Spartan'.

  • Thinning: Requires moderate to heavy thinning but is less prone to oversetting than '8S6923' (AURORA GOLDEN GALA™). Thin to single king fruits 15-20 cm apart.

  • Hardiness: Similar to Golden Delicious or Gala.

Cultural notes

'SPA440' sets well and must be thinned, but is less prone to oversetting than its sibling '8S6923' (AURORA GOLDEN GALA™). If grown on the superspindle system, the trees should not be cropped heavily until they reach their desired height.

Some stem end russet is characteristic but it does not normally break over the shoulders of the fruit. The exception is first year fruit, which may be very unattractive. Stem end russet is worse in years when the growing season has frequent rains, as in 2004.

The fruit requires two picks, the second about 5 days after the first. Fruit is ready to harvest when the ground color breaks from green to yellow and flavor development begins. In our hands the starch index at this stage is 3 to 4 on the Cornell generic chart (Blanpied and Silsby, 1992). The first harvest date of 'SPA440' is 7 to 10 days before 'Fuji' at Summerland. The fruit needs 4 to 6 weeks of storage for proper flavor development, and it can be stored successfully for up to 6 months in air at 1ºC without losing good texture. After about 5 months, the texture remains good, but a "flat" flavor results due to loss of acidity. No controlled-atmosphere storage or MCP data are available, but we anticipate that such treatments would be successful.

No significant post-harvest disorders or problems have been encountered to date. The fruit is not subject to superficial scald, bitter pit, or off-flavor development in storage. The stems are long but flexible, and stem punctures have not been a problem.


'SPA440' is being protected in Canada, the European Community and the United States. Commercialization rights have been granted to PICO, Box 6000, Summerland, BC, Canada, V0H 1Z0.

Figure 1. Intensity of selected attributes (each rated on a 0 (low) to 9 (high) scale) of 'SPA440' fruit relative to Fuji and Gala.

Information provided by:
Cheryl R. Hampson, Ph.D. Research Scientist
Apple Breeding and Pomology
Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada/Agriculture et Agroalimentaire Canada