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Research Project: Innovative Strategies and Methods for Improving the Management, Availability, and Utility of Plant Genetic Resource Collections

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Title: Identification of historic homestead and orchard apple cultivars in Wyoming

item MAGBY, JONATHAN - University Of Wyoming
item Volk, Gayle
item Henk, Adam
item MILLER, STEVE - University Of Wyoming

Submitted to: HortScience
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 11/9/2018
Publication Date: 1/1/2019
Citation: Magby, J., Volk, G.M., Henk, A.D., Miller, S. 2019. Identification of historic homestead and orchard apple cultivars in Wyoming. HortScience. 54(1):8-16.

Interpretive Summary: This research uses the National Plant Germplasm System (NPGS) apple reference collection to identify heritage apple trees of unknown identities that are growing on farms and ranches throughout the state of Wyoming. A total of 510 heritage apple trees were sampled in Wyoming from 91 sites and 335 (66%) of those trees were successfully identified by comparing their genotypes to those of the NPGS apple collection. The most commonly identified cultivars were 'Wealthy', 'Haralson', Patten's Greening', 'Yellow Transparent', 'Northwestern Greening', and 'McMahon'. Specialty crop farmers are using the results of this research to identify apple cultivars that can be successfully grown as a fruit crop in harsh Wyoming climatic conditions (low moisture, short growing season).

Technical Abstract: There were thousands of apple trees planted in Wyoming’s orchards and homesteads in the 1800s, many of which are still alive today. Unfortunately, cultivar identity of these trees has mostly been lost or obscured. The purpose of this research was to identify heritage apple cultivars in Wyoming using genetic fingerprinting (microsatellite) techniques and to use this information to make recommendations on candidate cold-hardy cultivars for specialty crop and breeding programs. Leaf samples were collected from 510 heritage apple trees from 91 sites in 19 locales across Wyoming. Known cultivars from the USDA-National Plant Germplasm System, Seed Savers Exchange and Washington State University apple collections were used as standards to determine cultivar identities. Overall, 335 (66%) of the previously unidentified apples trees were identified to 47 known cultivars. Fifteen of these known cultivars comprised over 80% of the samples that were identified, with 14 of those cultivars developed in states and countries with average temperatures or winter conditions similar to Wyoming. Seventy-one of the heritage trees were identified as the ‘Wealthy’ cultivar. Other commonly identified cultivars were ‘Haralson’, ‘Patten’s Greening’, ‘Yellow Transparent’, ‘Northwestern Greening’ and ‘McMahon’. The popularity of ‘Wealthy’ may be the result of its promotion in Agricultural Extension Bulletins from 1870-1940 and its frequent use in developing novel varieties for Wyoming’s climate. Although most original Wyoming heritage apple trees are reaching the end of their lifespan, many surviving trees continue to produce fruit. This strongly suggests that despite less resistance to certain pathogens than many modern cultivars, these heritage trees should be considered for use today. The results provide insights into possible cultivars that could be grown in Wyoming and also in other states with similar harsh growing conditions.