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US research orchards chart the future of the humble apple

US scientists are working to understand the genetics that result in the extensive apple diversity, with the ultimate goal of improving the fruit in different ways: tastier, more abundant, more resistant to disease and with a longer shelf life.

Many apples popular in grocery stores in recent years (Cosmic Crisps from Washington State, SnapDragons from New York, and Honeycrisps, originally from Minnesota) originated through the efforts of scientists who examined the qualities of different types of apples and crossed them. With about 7,500 varieties of apples in the world, there is much to discover. Future generations of apples in grocery stores may come from research orchards like the one in Nova Scotia, which is among the newest.

A 2019 report published by the Global Crop Diversity Trust found 40 apple diversity collections worldwide, with 7 established during the 21st century. The report also notes that more than half of the 40 orchards surveyed are in North America or Europe. Only 3 are in Central Asia and the Caucasus region, where scientists believe many contemporary apple varieties originated.


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