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Rights: The University of Waikato
Published 9 June 2011 Referencing Hub media
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The genome sequence of the Golden Delicious apple was published in 2010. Scientists at Plant & Food Research, including Andy Allan, contributed to the project. Here, Andy describes how the apple genome will increase the speed of apple breeding programmes, and what the genome can tell us about the apple’s history.

Transcript

Andy Allan (Plant & Food Research)
Having the genome, it’s a bit like detective work, you can stare back in time and see what happened over the evolution of apple and what happened in domestication. So we have been breeding apples probably for a couple of thousand years. We can look in the apple genome and say, “What were the original apples and where did they come from?” It looks like the early apples were from Asia via the Silk Route, and those were selected by Europeans and Eurasians into programmes of domestication where they took the best apples and crossed them with the best apples.

Understanding all the genes that apple has and where those genes are will aid our breeding initiatives in producing more novel cultivars more quickly. So it’s really all about increasing the speed of our breeding programmes. There is 1 other benefit from sequencing a genome and that’s understanding how apple actually functions – so how our apples that we have now growing in the ground behave, how they produce flavours, how they produce colours, how they grow, how they respond to pathogens. So not only is the genome important for breeding, it’s also important for understanding the cultivars we have now and how to manage them.