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Thousands Of Apple Varieties Available Free For Grafting
“We have more than 2,000 different varieties of apples and crab apples that are available to the public free for grafting,” says Thomas Chao at the USDA germplasm repository, Geneva, N.Y. “In addition, we maintain seeds from more than 1,500 genetically unique apple trees. Most of these are wild apples, not selected varieties.”
  There are 49 known wild species around the world with only 4 in North America. Seeds collected from them are reservoirs of genetic combinations that may include disease or pest resistance, or other valuable features.
  “We don’t do apple breeding, but others utilize our germplasm in their breeding programs,” says Chao.
  Chao and his counterparts travel the U.S. and the globe in search of new germplasm to add to the collection. Unlike other collectors who look for rare heirloom apple varieties, Chao looks for area specific variations of the wild species in the U.S.
  In August, he visited Pennsylvania looking for Malus coronaria, the wild species native to the northeastern U.S. While the repository has seed from the species found in other states, there is none from Pennsylvania. The genetics of the species there will be different from that found elsewhere.
  “Also, if you come back to the same location 50 years later, the gene combination will have changed,” says Chao.
  In addition to apples, Chao also works with 1,400 cold hardy grape varieties and 230 cherries. His is only part of the national Genetics Resources Unit at Geneva. The vegetable collection has more than 12,000 samples, including 6,000 tomatoes.
  One thing that makes Chao’s operation unique is that it still supplies budwood or dormant scions to growers. “Fewer and fewer repositories have budgets that allow them to do that,” says Chao. “We do request that unless needed for research purposes, people seeking scion wood for grafting should check with commercial nurseries first. A good place to start is Good Fruit Grower magazine’s buyers guide for nurseries (www.Goodfruit.com).
  FARM SHOW readers who are interested in Lady, Roberts Crab or other unique apples and know how to graft budstock or dormant scions can visit the repository’s online catalog. Once they have identified up to 25 different accessions, they can place an order, and they will receive 2 sticks with about 10 buds each.
  Chao does ask that orders be placed before the deadlines listed in the catalog.
  Contact: FARM SHOW Followup, Plant Genetic Resources Unit, USDA ARS, 630 W. North St., Geneva, N. Y. 14456 (ph 315 787-2454; c.thomas.chao@ars.usda.gov; www.ars.usda.gov/northeast-area/geneva-ny/plant-genetic-resources-research/docs/apple-grape-and-cherry-catalogs/).

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2017 - Volume #41, Issue #5