Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Conserving historic apple trees

05.11.2009
Study confirms diversity of apple trees endures in American Southwest

The apple trees of yesteryear are slowly disappearing. Many apple varieties common in the United States a century ago can no longer be found in today's orchards and nurseries. But some historic apple trees still survive in abandoned farmsteads and historic orchards throughout the U.S. Now, scientists interested in conserving these horticultural treasures have set out to identify and catalogue them, working to discover if the last remnants of historical trees may still be alive in American landscapes.

American horticulturalists and historians often refer to the late 19th century as the "golden years of apple growing", when scores of apple and other fruit trees were planted in farmstead and kitchen orchards. Their ability to ''keep'' all winter in cold cellars, produce flavorful ciders, and their versatility for cooking and baking made apples a staple in American homes. This period of American horticultural history was preceded by an era of fruit diversification that lasted into the early nineteenth century. In 1905, the popular manual The Nomenclature of the Apple by W.H. Ragan listed 6,654 unique apple varieties referenced in U.S. literature between the years 1804 and 1904. A new book by Dan Bussey, The Apple in North America (in press), lists more than 14,000 named apple cultivars introduced to or selected in North America.

Market pressures on commercial apple growers have reduced the diversity of apple trees once grown in small family orchards to only a handful of commonly marketed apple varieties. Currently, a mere 11 apple varieties account for more than 90% of the apples sold in the United States, with 'Red Delicious' making up 41% of this figure.

Have historic and heirloom apple trees succumbed to their more popular commercially produced relatives? Apple trees can live to remarkably old ages; single apple trees have been known to live 150 years or longer. In many areas, it is still possible to find trees of ''heirloom'' cultivars once abundant at the beginning of the 20th century. Remnant orchards planted before the modern era of fruit production hang on tenaciously around abandoned farmsteads and historic orchards.

Kanin J. Routson of the University of Arizona and colleagues at the U.S. Department of Agriculture's National Center for Genetic Resources Preservation published a study in the journal HortScience that assessed the genetic diversity of 280 apple trees growing in 43 historic farmstead and orchard sites in Arizona, Utah, and New Mexico. The study took place from June through September 2007 and focused sampling efforts primarily on sites dating back to the 1930s and earlier, with priority given to trees planted before 1920.

Using seven microsatellite markers, the researchers compared the samples to 109 cultivars likely introduced into the southwest in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Genetic analysis revealed 144 genotypes represented in the 280 field samples. According to Routson, the study identified 34 of these 144 genotypes as cultivars brought to the region by Stark Brothers Nursery and by USDA agricultural experiment stations. One-hundred-twenty of the total samples (43%) had DNA "fingerprints" that suggested they were representative of these 34 cultivars. "The remaining 160 samples, representing 110 genotypes, had unique fingerprints that did not match any of the fingerprinted cultivars. The results of this study confirm for the first time that a high diversity of historic apple genotypes remain in homestead orchards in the U.S. southwest", the study explained.

The research team noted that additional genetic fingerprinting of apple cultivars will enable researchers to identify the unknown genotypes from the study. "Until further research is done, these unknown genotypes should be conserved and analyzed for useful traits. Future efforts targeting orchards in the southwest should focus on conservation for all unique genotypes as a means to sustain both cultural heritage and biological genetic diversity", Routson added.

The complete study and abstract are available on the ASHS HortScience electronic journal web site: http://hortsci.ashspublications.org/cgi/content/abstract/44/3/589

Founded in 1903, the American Society for Horticultural Science (ASHS) is the largest organization dedicated to advancing all facets of horticultural research, education, and application.

Michael W. Neff | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.ashs.org

More articles from Agricultural and Forestry Science:

nachricht Climate change, population growth may lead to open ocean aquaculture
05.10.2017 | Oregon State University

nachricht New machine evaluates soybean at harvest for quality
04.10.2017 | University of Illinois College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences

All articles from Agricultural and Forestry Science >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Salmonella as a tumour medication

HZI researchers developed a bacterial strain that can be used in cancer therapy

Salmonellae are dangerous pathogens that enter the body via contaminated food and can cause severe infections. But these bacteria are also known to target...

Im Focus: Neutron star merger directly observed for the first time

University of Maryland researchers contribute to historic detection of gravitational waves and light created by event

On August 17, 2017, at 12:41:04 UTC, scientists made the first direct observation of a merger between two neutron stars--the dense, collapsed cores that remain...

Im Focus: Breaking: the first light from two neutron stars merging

Seven new papers describe the first-ever detection of light from a gravitational wave source. The event, caused by two neutron stars colliding and merging together, was dubbed GW170817 because it sent ripples through space-time that reached Earth on 2017 August 17. Around the world, hundreds of excited astronomers mobilized quickly and were able to observe the event using numerous telescopes, providing a wealth of new data.

Previous detections of gravitational waves have all involved the merger of two black holes, a feat that won the 2017 Nobel Prize in Physics earlier this month....

Im Focus: Smart sensors for efficient processes

Material defects in end products can quickly result in failures in many areas of industry, and have a massive impact on the safe use of their products. This is why, in the field of quality assurance, intelligent, nondestructive sensor systems play a key role. They allow testing components and parts in a rapid and cost-efficient manner without destroying the actual product or changing its surface. Experts from the Fraunhofer IZFP in Saarbrücken will be presenting two exhibits at the Blechexpo in Stuttgart from 7–10 November 2017 that allow fast, reliable, and automated characterization of materials and detection of defects (Hall 5, Booth 5306).

When quality testing uses time-consuming destructive test methods, it can result in enormous costs due to damaging or destroying the products. And given that...

Im Focus: Cold molecules on collision course

Using a new cooling technique MPQ scientists succeed at observing collisions in a dense beam of cold and slow dipolar molecules.

How do chemical reactions proceed at extremely low temperatures? The answer requires the investigation of molecular samples that are cold, dense, and slow at...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

3rd Symposium on Driving Simulation

23.10.2017 | Event News

ASEAN Member States discuss the future role of renewable energy

17.10.2017 | Event News

World Health Summit 2017: International experts set the course for the future of Global Health

10.10.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Microfluidics probe 'cholesterol' of the oil industry

23.10.2017 | Life Sciences

Gamma rays will reach beyond the limits of light

23.10.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

The end of pneumonia? New vaccine offers hope

23.10.2017 | Health and Medicine

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>