More apple varieties with different levels of crispness, juiciness, flavour and aroma are expected to be bred now that the apple genome has been determined.

An international team of scientists, including scientists from New Zealand’s Plant & Food Research, has sequenced the more than 600 million base pairs of DNA that make up the apple genome

The sequencing makes it possible to develop a fruit with just the right crispness, juiciness and flavour that people buying the apples in shops ask for. New types of apples can also be bred that are resistant to diseases. This benefits apple growers because they do not have to use chemicals or sprays.

“Understanding how important characteristics in plants are controlled is vital in reducing the time to breed successful new types of apples to export around the world,” says Roger Hellens, genomics group leader at Plant & Food Research.

“Now we have the sequence of the apple genome, we will be able to identify the genes that control the characters that our sensory scientists have identified as most desired by consumers.”

The apple genome project involved scientists from Italy, the US, Belgium, France and New Zealand, including those from Plant & Food Research. The Kiwi scientists provided access to a breeding population of 600 Golden Delicious apple trees. New Zealand’s $700 million apple industry has been named the world’s most competitive performer. Apple exports are worth over $360 million of New Zealand’s export income. Otago University biochemistry senior lecturer Richard MacKnight says, “Scientists will now be able to more quickly ask, what makes, say, a Braeburn apple different from a Pacific Rose? Then the apple breeders will be able to combine the best genes from both when producing a new variety.”

Plant & Food Research’s apple breeding programme has previously developed the commercially successful new variety of apple called Jazz.

Useful links

Fond out more about Plant & Food Research's work on delivering superior apples here

In this video Dr Roger Hellens, Science Group Leader at Plant & Food Research, talks about his career in plant genomics.

    Published 8 September 2010, Updated 20 July 2016