Malus sieversii, the main progenitor of domesticated apple, is native to areas in Central Asia. To better represent Malus wild germplasm in the USDA–ARS germplasm collections, maintained in Geneva, N.Y., a cooperative project was initiated with the Republic if Kazakhstan to collect and assess that country's wild populations of M. sieversii and to develop more secure in situ reserves to complement ex situ holdings in the United States and Kazakhstan. To date, four exploration trips to the region have included participants from the United States, Kazakhstan, Canada, New Zealand, and South Africa. Four Kazkh scientists have toured USDA–ARS sites, exchanged information, and collected germplasm in the United States greenhouse screens of 1600 have revealed potentially new sources of resistance to apple scab, cedar apple rust, and fire blight. An isozyme analysis of maternal half-sib families from four regions suggests the populations of M. sieversii collected represent a single panmictic population, with over 85% of total genetic variation due to differences among families. The most recent collections in 1995 were directed towards more ecologically diverse regions, including a site (Tarbagatai) at the most northern limit for M. sieversii equivalent to northern Minnesota in the United States. Some trees in this region produced fruit nearly 70 mm in diameter with excellent aroma, firmness, and color. This germplasm is being systematically characterized for horticultural traits, pest and disease resistance, and molecular markers.
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