Pedigrees of apple (Malus ×domestica Borkh.) cultivars were used to study worldwide genetic diversity among clones used in modern apple breeding. The most frequent founding clones were `Cox's Orange Pippin', `Golden Delicious', `Red Delicious', `Jonathan', and `McIntosh'. Coefficients of coancestry between 50 mainstream cultivars and these clones averaged 0.03, 0.12, 0.07, 0.06, and 0.02, respectively, but they were frequently as high as 0.25 with certain pairings. Among a group of 27 cultivars carrying the Vf gene for scab resistance, coefficients of coancestry with the five founding clones were of the same order. Although few of the cultivars sampled were substantially inbred, inbreeding could reach serious levels in their future offspring if current breeding practices are continued. The status effective number was 8 for the mainstream group and 7 for the Vf-carrier clones. This indicates clearly that apple breeders are operating with a population of greatly reduced genetic diversity. Careful consideration of pedigrees and increased size of the genetic base are needed in future apple breeding strategies.
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