Click image for caption and other photo
Apricots--Exotic and Familiar--Protected in National
By Marcia Wood
July 17, 2003
Nearly 150 different kinds of apricot
trees from around the world are growing in a special orchard in northern
California. These apricots, along with a backup collection of trees living in
5-gallon pots inside a screened enclosure, make up America's official national
collection of this delectable fruit.
Known as the National
Clonal Germplasm Repository for Fruit and Nut Crops, the genebank is
headquartered at Davis, Calif., about 75 miles northeast of San Francisco. The
repository is part of a nationwide network of genebanks managed by the
Agricultural Research Service.
The California collection safeguards not only familiar apricots but also
their wild relatives. The collection's purpose is to ensure that the apricots'
genes--in other words, the apricot breeding pool--aren't lost when orchards are
pulled up and paved over, or when older, heirloom or antique varieties are
replaced by new ones.
Treasures at the Davis genebank include apricots from Russia, Poland,
Kazakhstan, Turkey, Nepal, Pakistan, South Africa and about a dozen other
countries. Some of these specimens have names as exotic as their origins, like
Janjir, Khubani, Chaksa, Min-Dze-Sin and Luizet.
Most of the apricots in the genebank orchard are varieties of Prunus
armeniaca, the most widely planted apricot in the United States.
Growers, treefruit breeders and hobbyist fruit gardeners use the collection.
They also donate new specimens to it. That has helped make the genebank the
largest publicly available assemblage of apricots in the United States.
Among the genebank's most prized specimens are the remarkably sweet apricots
collected during a 1988 expedition to Pakistan. ARS researchers based at
Parlier, Calif., have bred the Pakistani apricots with varieties suited to the
climate in California, where most of the U.S. commercial apricots are grown.
Within a few years, the researchers expect to offer growers and nurseries a
superb new apricot that boasts the luscious taste and pleasing texture of the
Pakistani fruit, yet thrives in California.
ARS is the U.S. Department of
Agriculture's chief scientific research agency.