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How About Them Apples?

Plant explorers who collected 60,000 apple seeds from wild trees in Central Asia may have found materials containing a genetic bonanza for improving taste and fighting disease in apples.

Agriculture Department scientist Philip Forsline said the group found bright red apples as large as 3 inches in diameter that could rival those found in supermarkets.

Forsline, apple curator for USDA’s Agricultural Research Service in Geneva, N.Y., said apple seeds and cuttings from the trip have been brought back to the United States, where they will be preserved and evaluated for their breeding potential.

The genetic base of the modern-day, domestic apple is narrow because breeders have not had a chance to tap the rich, diverse genetic base of wild apples, Forsline said.

The trip was part of a USDA effort to collect and preserve rare wild apples growing in remote, mountainous areas.