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Page head TitleSci4Kids logo with link to this ARS Web site's home page. Hot-linked graphic of title that reads: "With Apples, All Roads Lead to Central Asia."

Central Asia—especially the rugged, mountain-filled countries known today as Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan—is where traders and explorers discovered apples centuries ago. Click map to see where Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan are.To see where Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan are, click on map.

Early traders and explorers took those apples along with them, and wound up spreading the apple seeds all over the world. On this continent, the process was helped along by a man named John Chapman. You may know him by his nickname: “Johnny Appleseed.” He planted apple trees throughout the wilderness that today is the location of Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois. Learn more about Johnny Appleseed from Phil Forsline.

Naturally, the apples that were spread around the globe were the best-tasting and best-looking ones that Central Asia had to offer. That was great for people who ate the apples. But it was bad for those who grew them.

Why? It all comes down togenes. Genes are sort of like instruction manuals located inside the cells of living things. Genes are passed down from parents to offspring and control how living things look and behave.

Animated kids in a long row holdinghands

Those fine-looking, good-tasting apples didn't have all the genes in them that they needed to fend off attacks by plant diseases and fungi that were present at the new locations. Many of the most protective genes were in smaller, less tasty apples overlooked by the ancient traders. So U.S. apple growers have had to worry a lot about bad diseases like apple scab and fire blight that could ruin their crops.