HERITAGE APPLES REVISITED
In modern marketplaces, apple (Malus domestica) production has become reliant on relatively few cultivars. While traditionally hundreds of heritage apples have been grown, these have been delegated to cultivar collections over time. With changing consumer demands, such as increased focus on positive compounds for human health and changing consumption patterns such as cider consumption, there is a need for growers to produce fruit that fill these new markets. While breeding new cultivars can accomplish this, an alternative is to reselect cultivars with useful characters from the existing heritage collections. In Tasmania, the government owns a collection of over 850 apple cultivars. While the government no longer actively manages this collection, the site has been leased to Australias largest pome fruit nursery, Tahune Fields Nursery, who is maintaining the collection. In order to capitalise from the collection, over the past three seasons, the Nursery has been cataloguing the cultivars to document the fruit characteristics such as harvest date, attractiveness, flavour, texture and polyphenol content. The cultivars have been monitored on a weekly basis and harvested when 50% of the starch has dispersed. In the laboratory fruit weight, starch plate, sugar (%TSS), acidity (pH after NaOH to neutralise 1% malic acid) and polyphenols were recorded. Fruit was organoleptically assessed for texture and flavour. For fruit polyphenol content a very quick method of assessing the fruit was needed and a spectroscopic method, transmission reduction at 360 nm compared to 400 nm as a percentage, was developed. This information has been mounted on the internet and is now being used to identify heritage cultivars with desirable traits for modern markets. The identified cultivars are being propagated and small experimental orchards being established to assess their commercial potential.
Brown, G.S. (2015). HERITAGE APPLES REVISITED. Acta Hortic. 1091, 29-36
Malus domestica, heritage, polyphenols, cider, fruit quality, fruit characters