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Apple Collection
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USDA Apple (Malus) Collection




The domesticated apple, Malus domestica, easily wins in a popularity contest. Unlike most other fresh produce, apples are marketed by name and many consumers are familiar with several cultivars. As one of the world’s largest and most diverse apple collections, the PGRU apple collection is the center piece of the PGRU clonal repository. PGRU maintains 6,079 unique accessions, representing 55 species and cultivated hybrids, including 2,937 permanent accessions, research populations, seedlings under evaluation, and seed lots. Apples and wild apple relatives are largely self-incompatible and can hybridize between species, creating a tremendous reservoir of genetic diversity. Despite the diversity of apple genetic resources, analysis suggests that modern apple breeding narrowly relied on a limited number of founding parents (Noiton and Alspach 1996). M. domestica is primarily an interspecific hybrid between progenitor species Malus sieversii and the European crabapple, Malus sylvestris (Velasco et al. 2010; Cornille et al. 2012). Additional species contributed also to apple domestication and more modern breeding included further hybridization to bring key traits from wild relatives into a domesticated background (Brown 2012). As such, in situ and ex situ preservation of wild Malus are a critical focus (Bramel and Volk 2019). Loss of habitat and gene flow of M. domestica into wild Malus populations are concerning (Cornille et al. 2013).

From 1989 to 1996, PGRU led explorations for wild Malus in Central Asia, of which the collection of M. sieversii from Kazakhstan was a crowning achievement (Forsline et al. 2003). Resistance for fire blight, apple scab, and blue mold were identified in among these resources (Forsline and Aldwinckle 2004; Norelli et al. 2017). More recently, PGRU has been active to conserve wild germplasm of Malus angustifoliaMalus coronaria, and Malus ioensis from North America, and Malus doumeri from Vietnam.

Excerpt from: Gutierrez B, Battaglia K, Zhong G-Y (2020) Preserving the future with the USDA Plant Genetic Resources Unit tart cherry, grape, and apple germplasm collections. Journal of the American Pomological Society 7 


Brown S (2012) Apple. In: Badenes ML, Byrne DH (eds) Fruit Breeding. Springer US, Boston, MA, pp 329–367
Cornille A, Gladieux P, Giraud T (2013) Crop-to-wild gene flow and spatial genetic structure in the closest wild relatives of the cultivated apple. Evol Appl 6:737–748.
Cornille A, Gladieux P, Smulders MJ, Roldán-Ruiz I, Laurens F, Cam BL, et al. (2012) New insight into the history of domesticated apple: secondary contribution of the European wild apple to the genome of cultivated varieties. PLoS Genet 8:e1002703.
Forsline PL, Aldwinckle HS (2004) Evaluation of Malus sieversii seedling populations for disease resistance and horticultural traits. Acta Hort 529–534
Noiton DAM, Alspach PA (1996) Founding clones, inbreeding, coancestry, and status number of modern apple cultivars. J Amer Soc Hort Sci 121:773–782
Norelli JL, Wisniewski M, Fazio G, Burchard E, Gutierrez B, Levin E, et al. (2017) Genotyping-by-sequencing markers facilitate the identification of quantitative trait loci controlling resistance to Penicillium expansum in Malus sieversii. PLoS ONE 12:e0172949.
Velasco R, Zharkikh A, Affourtit J, Dhingra A, Cestaro A, Kalyanaraman A, et al. (2010) The genome of the domesticated apple (Malus × domestica Borkh.). Nat Genet 42:833–839.

Looking for plant germplasm? Review our distribution policy for germplasm requests

List of Accessions in the USDA Apple Collection

Visit the APPLE crop page in GRIN-Global to find citations, descriptor data, and genetic markers.

Interested in plant conservation? Read about the vulnerability of apple genetic resources.

Contact for more information

Media Highlights:

An Apple Detective Rediscovered 7 Kinds Of Apples Thought To Be Extinct -- NPR*

Fire Blight Spreads Northward, Threatening Apple Orchards--NYTimes*

Preserving the Future: the National Collection of Tart Cherry, Grape, and Apple in Geneva, NY*

Cryopreservation of Dormant Apple Buds*

Around the World in Rare and Beautiful Apples -- Atlas Obscura*

*Goes to Non-Federal Site


Apple Production in the United States


Data from USDA NASS


PGRU Apple Accession Distribution 1988-2019


Data from GRIN-Global