If you have apples that you would like MAN to identify for you, particularly if you live in or near the Welsh Marches region or think the varieties come from this region, please do send them in!
Identification has traditionally been by morphological description: visual inspection of the characteristics and tasting it, assessing texture, and, for cookers, sometimes how it cooks.
This is a very important part of MAN’s work and can lead to discovering lost varieties.
Since 2016 this project of fingerprinting has transformed the confidence we have in identification.
It has been led by fruitID, with careful analysis at East Malling Research and final oversight by the Curator of the NFC. Analysis is being transferred to National Institute of Agricultural Botany. A signal gain has been bringing orchard groups closer together throughout the UK and Ireland.
East Malling Research East Malling Research have a long track record carrying out DNA SSR fingerprint analysis for the NFC, commercial organisations and Agriculture.
Each sample sets are sent by users to EMR in bags only marked with a code number for ensuring work is carried out ‘blind’. QC has been greatly aided by their extensive in depth knowledge of the methodology, collaboration with NFC over many years and access to data not publicly available.
Since 1993 many varieties of old dessert, cooking and cider apples have been re-found. More often ‘lost’ varieties have surfaced by visitors bringing in unknown apples for identification at Apple Day events.
Identification can be a lengthy process and involve taking scions from an old tree and grafting young ones that can be grown on and studied in one of our museum orchards.
We are still on the look out for interesting ‘new’ finds…
The technical basis for DNA SSR fingerprinting is quite complex yet intriguing. Here we give a user view of the process, DNA biochemistry and the methodology employed in cutting out and analysing DNA fragments.
An excellent description can be found under ‘DNA scheme’ and ‘resources’ at www.fruitID.com/#help
Once we’re pretty sure about the identity of an apple, we submit it for peer review by expert pomologists for accreditation to the ‘Register of Local Cultivars’.
This is the final accolade sealing the name as authenticate.
…. Unless new information or insights come along!
While the DNA fingerprinting method is primarily useful in aiding identification, there have been suggestions it can confirm or refute possible parentage of a variety. The latter is true, whereas identifying parents is much less certain, ‘it depends’ is the best answer.
Here we share our investigation of all MAN’s samples.
Also we have compiled a list of many published parentages of diploid and triploid varieties from studies using DNA SSR, DArT and SNP.
In a few cases two distinctly different varieties, as adjudged from morphology, were found to differ by just one allele. We have investigated whether or not using the standard set of 12 (now 11) pear marker-pairs gave further discrimination. Generally, yes, is the answer; a report is available here.
We had a look at whether DNA fingerprints can identify or confirm whether varieties are siblings. Probably seldom, though sometimes we can spot that varieties are closely related. An unexpected outcome was that at least some of the non-functional genetic material probed by the twelve marker-pairs is subject to selection pressures, intentional or otherwise.