Apples are bigger and better than their wild ancestors today, study finds UK News
According to new research, today’s apples are larger, less acidic, less bitter and have a better shelf life than their wild ancestors.
Ten apple phenotypes — or traits — have been studied by researchers hoping to figure out how the popular fruit evolved.
Sean Myles, Associate Professor of Agriculture at Canada’s Dalhousie University, and his team drew from Canada’s Apple Biodiversity Collection – an orchard of more than 1,000 varieties of apples, including heirloom heirloom varieties and wild apples from the forests of Kazakhstan.
They found that cultivated apples were 3.6 times heavier, about half as acidic and far less bitter than the wild species from which they are derived.
The authors of the study write in the journal PLoS ONE: “Using historical records, we found that apple breeding over the past 200 years has led to a trend toward apples that have higher soluble solids content, are less bitter, and are less bitter during storage become less soft.
“Our results quantify the significant phenotypic changes that have occurred since the apple was domesticated and provide evidence that apple breeding has resulted in a persistent phenotypic deviation of the cultivated apple from its wild progenitor species.
“Our work shows that cultivated and wild apples differed phenotypically and that hundreds of years of apple improvement shaped the differences in fruiting and phenology that we observe in cultivated apples today.
“Wild apples provide potentially valuable pools of genetic material that may be helpful for apple improvement.”
Apples are one of the world’s most heavily produced crops and have been cultivated for at least 7,000 years.