[NAFEX] Heirloom fruit

Anton Callaway marillen at earthlink.net
Wed Sep 23 08:32:09 EDT 2009


Actually, all apples in commercial production today rely on the same basic mechanism of breeding as ever- genetic recombination.  Namely when sexual reproduction occurs, a new and unique genetic mix is formed for each meiotic event.  This is no different than what happens in the wild.

However, heirloom fruit are an important part of maintaining useful alleles as well as useful allelic combinations.  The richest source of allelic diversity is the original wild population.  However, using conventional breeding techniques, it takes more time to reassemble the favorable combinations of alleles that one finds in a marketable apple.   The heirloom cultivars then provide a different source of desirable alleles for the breeder.  

"Modern" breeding does  a few things differently, namely better record-keeping, partly because humans are the bees- they choose the parents and record which parents were used to make seed and different selection criteria.  By selection criteria, I mean the criteria used to decide which seedling is named and distributed and which ones are eliminated.

Those are the two main factors that have changed apples as they are today.  Breeders have tended to select parents from a narrow panel of already established cultivars (although that has been changing in the last 20 years or so).  And the selection criteria that are applied to modern apples is quite different than before.  That is because there is a much narrower acceptable specification for centrally-produced commercial apples vs. backyard trees.  In previous generations, diversity in apples was valuable- we needed a long harvest season, apples that would keep without refrigeration (that didn't exist) for months, apples for beverages, apples for drying, sauces, etc.  And these apples needed to resist pests and diseases pretty much on their own.  Many of those qualities seemed of lesser importance in the era of powerful insecticides, cheap petrol for transportation across thousands of miles and a mainly urban society that began to treat food as fuel- something to be microwaved and wolfed down between meetings.

Although I'm not in favor of keeping heirloom just because they are old (I'd rather preserve the wild apple forests where the diversity is richer), I do think keeping heirlooms that have valuable characteristics or potentially valuable characteristics is worthwhile and important.  

Anton
Zone 8

-----Original Message-----
>From: John S <swim_at_svc at yahoo.com>
>Sent: Sep 23, 2009 6:24 AM
>To: "Dr. Chiranjit Parmar" <parmarch_mnd at dataone.in>, North American Fruit Explorers <nafex at lists.ibiblio.org>
>Subject: Re: [NAFEX] Heirloom fruit
>
>An important part of this concept is that the varieties have been grown in earlier times and "remain" unmodified by modern breeding technologies.  Heirloom seeds help to establish and define a preserved genetic heritage.
>
>
>
>--- On Wed, 9/23/09, Dr. Chiranjit Parmar <parmarch_mnd at dataone.in> wrote:
>
>From: Dr. Chiranjit Parmar <parmarch_mnd at dataone.in>
>Subject: Re: [NAFEX] Heirloom fruit
>To: "North American Fruit Explorers" <nafex at lists.ibiblio.org>
>Date: Wednesday, September 23, 2009, 2:12 AM
>
>
>
>
> 
>
>Thanks Spidra.
> 
>I did not know it all.
> 
>Well I also keep some heirloom seeds for 
>distribution.
> 
>Dr. Chiranjit Parmar
>Mandi  HP  India
>www.fruitipedia.com
>
>  ----- Original Message ----- 
>  From: 
>  Spidra 
>  Webster 
>  To: Dr. Chiranjit Parmar ; North 
>  American Fruit Explorers 
>  Sent: Wednesday, September 23, 2009 11:24 
>  AM
>  Subject: Re: [NAFEX] Heirloom fruit
>  
>It's an imprecise term. It refers to 
>  fruits/vegetables/roses/seeds that are not easily available from commercial 
>  seed companies/nurseries. They were kept alive and in circulation by 
>  individuals.
>  
>
>  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heirloom_plant
>  
>
>  
>
>  
>  On Sep 22, 2009, at 10:49 PM, Dr. Chiranjit Parmar wrote:
>
>  
>    
>    Dear all,
>     
>    Will some of you tell me the meaning of the term Heirloom 
>    fruit or heirloom seed?
>     
>    Thanks,
>     
>    Dr. Chiranjit Parmar
>Mandi  HP  India
>www.fruitipedia.com\
>  
>  
>
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