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Media opportunity: Sweeter, bigger and less acidic ‑ Dalhousie researchers uncover how apples have been improved over time

Posted by Communications and Marketing on March 23, 2022 in News

They are one of the most heavily produced fruit crops in the world, with their cultivation dating back at least 7,000 years and their provenance linked to Central Asia and travels west along the Silk Road.

But, how have apples evolved over the years and how do ancestral apples from long ago compare to modern-day varieties?

Sean Myles, an associate professor in Dalhousie University's Faculty of Agriculture, and his team of researchers have shed light on that progression after examining 10 apple phenotypes -- or traits -- to assess how apples have changed during domestication and breeding.

They found that cultivated apples were 3.6 times heavier, about half as acidic and far less bitter than the wild ancestral species from which modern apples are derived. Using historical records, they also determined that apple breeding over the past 200 years has resulted in a trend towards apples that soften less during storage.

The team, which published its findings today in the journal PLOS ONE, drew from Canada's Apple Biodiversity Collection, an orchard that contains more than 1,000 different apple varieties, like Gala and Honeycrisp, but also ancient heirloom varieties and wild apples from the forests of Kazakhstan.

Dr. Myles is available to discuss the new findings and how measuring traits across species of trees grown in the same orchard allows researchers to see evolution in action and assess how apples have improved over the past several thousand years.


Photo caption: Apples from Canada's Apple Biodiversity Collection. The yellow apples are Malus sieversii (the wild ancestor), and the red apples are Malus domestica (modern apples). Credit: Davies et al.

Media contact:

Alison Auld
Senior Research Reporter
Communications, Marketing and Creative Services
Dalhousie University
Cell: 1-902-220-0491


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