New Apples Still Don’t Fall Far From the Tree

New Apples Still Don’t Fall Far From the Tree

Even though it’s officially a good two weeks away, as soon as the calendar page flips over to September I can’t help but start thinking FALL. I can’t wait to revel in bushels of the season’s best fruit – apples, hands down!

There are so many varieties now, as a layperson I’d think the apple industry doesn’t have to go out of its way to invent more. However, a team out of Ohio State University begs to differ; not only proposing brand new apple types entirely but automating the process –  through the power of science.

Their new analysis platform purports to take years, if not decades, off the traditional apple hybridization process. By using the platform as a drawing board, combining genetic traits affecting sugar levels, acids, and antioxidants, researchers can eventually predict what the offspring fruits will be like without the time investment of real-world breeding. Using this tool, the team hopes to maximize the healthfulness of the humble apple, while keeping flavour, yield, and hardiness in mind too.

There is some hard “core” (pun intended!) science at play here!

“Genome-wide analysis of each apple enabled identification of genetic markers associated with metabolites that influence traits like flavor, disease resistance and texture. The researchers used high-resolution mass spectrometry and nuclear magnetic resonance to detect phytochemicals in the apples in a “global” way –  an approach called untargeted metabolomics. […]

‘We looked for strong relationships at locations in the genome that are not well studied in apple and looked for which compounds we could identify and which had nutritional value. We could go from untargeted data all the way to finding candidate genes responsible for compound production –  which researchers can then validate,’ [Ohio State assistant professor Jessica] Cooperstone said.

There are 124 different apples currently in the database, all ready to be combined into new, more nutritious apples that people will already love because, well, they’re apples! I may be biased, but a fan of apples or not, biodiversity and careful selection to ensure the future of the fruit is a good thing for us all.