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Gayle M. Volk and Adam D. Henk

Apples (Malus Mill.) have been economically and socially important throughout the centuries in North America. Apple cultivar (Malus ×domestica Borkh.) collections that include historic cultivars are valued for their unique diversity, historical significance, and also as a resource to identify unknown trees; however, not all of the historically significant apple cultivars are currently included in these collections. We used historic books, publications, and nursery catalogs to develop an inventory of apple cultivars that were propagated and grown in the United States before 1908. We collected synonym, introduction date, and original source country information for 891 historic apple cultivars. Most of the historic American cultivars originated as seedlings first planted in the United States. Some cultivars were brought to the United States from the United Kingdom, France, Russia, Germany, and other European countries. We classified historic apple cultivars based on their availability over time and popularity in nursery catalogs. Ninety percent of the most popular historic apple cultivars in the United States were available in 2015 in the U.S. and U.K. national collections and within several commercial and private collections. This work identified high priority historic cultivars that are not currently protected within genebanks that could be added to genebank collections in the future.

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Gayle M. Volk, Adam D. Henk, and Christopher M. Richards

Garlic (Allium sativum L.) has been clonally propagated for thousands of years because it does not produce seed under standard cultivation conditions. A single garlic accession frequently displays a high degree of phenotypic plasticity that is likely to be dependent upon soil type, moisture, latitude, altitude, and cultural practices. The diversity observed by collectors has occasionally led to the renaming of varieties as they are exchanged among growers and gardeners. As a result, there are numerous garlic varieties available both commercially and within the USDA National Plant Germplasm System (NPGS) that may be identical genotypically, yet have unique cultivar names. To address this possibility, we performed amplified fragment-length polymorphism (AFLP) analysis on a comprehensive selection of 211 Allium sativum and Allium longicuspis accessions from NPGS and commercial sources. We used several statistical approaches to evaluate how these clonal lineages are genetically differentiated and how these patterns of differentiation correspond to recognized phenotypic classifications. These data suggest that while there are extensive duplications within the surveyed accessions, parsimony and distance based analyses reveal substantial diversity that is largely consistent with major phenotypic classes.

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Kanin J. Routson, Ann A. Reilley, Adam D. Henk, and Gayle M. Volk

Many apple varieties commonly planted in the United States a century ago can no longer be found in today's orchards and nurseries. Abandoned farmsteads and historic orchards harbor considerable agrobiodiversity, but the extent and location of that diversity is poorly understood. We assessed the genetic diversity of 280 apple (Malus ×domestica Borkh.) trees growing in 43 historic farmstead and orchard sites in Arizona, Utah, and New Mexico using seven microsatellite markers. We compared the samples to 109 cultivars likely introduced into the southwest in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Genetic analysis revealed 144 genotypes represented in the 280 field samples. We identified 34 of these 144 genotypes as cultivars brought to the region by Stark Brothers Nursery and by USDA agricultural experiment stations. One hundred twenty of the total samples (43%) had DNA fingerprints that suggested they were representative of these 34 cultivars. The remaining 160 samples—representing 110 genotypes—had unique fingerprints that did not match any of the fingerprinted cultivars. The results of this study confirm for the first time that a high diversity of historic apple genotypes remain in homestead orchards in the U.S. southwest. Future efforts targeting orchards in the southwest should focus on conservation for all unique genotypes as a means to sustain both cultural heritage and biological genetic diversity.

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Gayle M. Volk, Adam D. Henk, Christopher M. Richards, Philip L. Forsline, and C. Thomas Chao

There are several Central Asian Malus species and varieties in the USDA-ARS National Plant Germplasm System (NPGS) apple collection. Malus sieversii is the most comprehensively collected species native to Central Asia. Other taxa such as M. sieversii var. kirghisorum, M. sieversii var. turkmenorum, M. pumila, and M. pumila var. niedzwetzkyana have primarily been donated to the collection by other institutions and arboreta. We sought to determine if genetic and/or phenotypic differences among the individuals that make up the gene pools of these taxa in the NPGS exhibit unique characteristics. Genetic data, based on microsatellite analyses, suggested that the diversity within each taxa is significantly greater than that among taxa. Trait data also revealed very few differences among taxa, the primary characteristic being the dark red fruit coloration and tinted flesh color of the accessions assigned to M. pumila var. niedzwetzkyana resulting from a known single-gene mutation in anthocyanin production. We found that M. sieversii is a highly diverse species with a range in genetic and phenotypic trait variation that includes the characteristics of the other Central Asian taxa of interest. We conclude that the gene pools that comprise the accessions within the NPGS Central Asian Malus collection are highly overlapping with respect to both phenotypic traits and genotypic characters.

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Gayle M. Volk, Christopher M. Richards, Adam D. Henk, Ann Reilley, Diane D. Miller, and Philip L. Forsline

The genetic diversity of a wild Malus population collected in the Kyrgyz Republic was compared with seedlings of Malus sieversii collected in Kazakhstan. Based on microsatellite marker results, we conclude that the population of 49 individuals collected in the Kyrgyz Republic includes private alleles and this population is assigned to a common genetic lineage with M. sieversii individuals found in the Karatau Mountain range of Kazakhstan. We recommend that a subset of these individuals be included in the National Plant Germplasm System Malus collection so they may be made available to breeders, physiologists, and other scientists for further examination.

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Gayle M. Volk, Christopher M. Richards, Adam D. Henk, Ann A. Reilley, Nahla V. Bassil, and Joseph D. Postman

Edible european pears (Pyrus communis L. ssp. communis) are derived from wild relatives native to the Caucasus Mountain region and eastern Europe. Microsatellite markers (13 loci) were used to determine the relationships among 145 wild and cultivated individuals of P. communis maintained in the National Plant Germplasm System (NPGS). A Bayesian clustering method grouped the individual pear genotypes into 12 clusters. Pyrus communis ssp. caucasica (Fed.) Browicz, native to the Caucasus Mountains of Russia, Crimea, and Armenia, can be genetically differentiated from P. communis ssp. pyraster L. native to eastern European countries. The domesticated pears cluster closely together and are most closely related to a group of genotypes that are intermediate to the P. communis ssp. pyraster and the P. communis ssp. caucasica groups. Based on the high number of unique alleles and heterozygosity in each of the 12 clusters, we conclude that genetic diversity of wild P. communis is not fully represented at the NPGS. Additional diversity may be present in seed accessions stored in the NPGS and more pear diversity could be captured through supplementary collection trips to eastern Europe, the Caucasus Mountains, and the surrounding countries.

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Gayle M. Volk, Christopher M. Richards, Ann A. Reilley, Adam D. Henk, Philip L. Forsline, and Herb S. Aldwinckle

Seeds and scionwood of Malus sieversii Lebed. have been collected from wild populations of apple trees in Kazakhstan. Seedlings and grafted trees were planted in the orchards at the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture Plant Genetic Resources Unit in Geneva, N.Y. We developed core collections to capture the genetic and phenotypic diversity represented in the trees from each of two of the Kazakhstan collection sites. These core collections capture more than 90% of the genetic diversity of the original populations, as determined using seven unlinked simple sequence repeat markers and 19 quantitative traits. Since phenotypic evaluations of these materials have been completed, the 35 trees within each population will be used as parents in crosses so that the genetic diversity in the orchard populations can be captured as seed for long-term ex situ conservation. This strategy of storing seeds, rather than maintaining costly field collections, could be applied to other collections of wild plant materials in the National Plant Germplasm System.

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Christopher M. Richards, Gayle M. Volk, Patrick A. Reeves, Ann A. Reilley, Adam D. Henk, Philip L. Forsline, and Herb S. Aldwinckle

We estimate the minimum core size necessary to maximally represent a portion of the U.S. Department of Agriculture's National Plant Germplasm System apple (Malus) collection. We have identified a subset of Malus sieversii individuals that complements the previously published core subsets for two collection sites within Kazakhstan. We compared the size and composition of this complementary subset with a core set composed without restrictions. Because the genetic structure of this species has been previously determined, we were able to identify the origin of individuals within this core set with respect to their geographic location and genetic lineage. In addition, this core set is structured in a way that samples all of the major genetic lineages identified in this collection. The resulting panel of genotypes captures a broad range of phenotypic and molecular variation throughout Kazakhstan. These samples will provide a manageable entry point into the larger collection and will be critical in developing a long-term strategy for ex situ wild Malus conservation.

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Gayle M. Volk, Christopher M. Richards, Adam D. Henk, Ann A. Reilley, Patrick A. Reeves, Philip L. Forsline, and Herb S. Aldwinckle

Seeds from wild Malus orientalis trees were collected during explorations to Armenia (2001, 2002), Georgia (2004), Turkey (1999), and Russia (1998). Seedling orchards with between eight and 171 individuals from each collection location were established at the U.S. Department of Agriculture–Agricultural Research Service Plant Genetic Resources Unit (PGRU) in Geneva, NY. Genotypic (seven microsatellite markers) and disease resistance data were collected for the 776 M. orientalis trees. The genetic diversity of the 280 individuals from Armenia and Georgia was compared with data previously published for the M. orientalis individuals from Russia and Turkey. A total of 106 alleles were identified in the trees from Georgia and Armenia and the average gene diversity ranged from 0.47 to 0.85 per locus. The genetic differentiation among sampling locations was greater than that found between the two countries. Six individuals from Armenia exhibited resistance to fire blight (Erwinia amylovora), apple scab (Venturia inaequalis), and cedar apple rust (Gymnosporangium juniperi-virginianae). The allelic richness across all loci in the individuals from Armenia and Georgia was statistically the same as that across all loci in the individuals from Russia and Turkey. A core set of 27 trees was selected to capture 93% of the alleles represented by the entire PGRU collection of 776 M. orientalis trees. This core set representing all four countries was selected based on genotypic data using a modified maximization algorithm. The trees selected for the M. orientalis core collection will be added to the main field collection at the PGRU.

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Briana L. Gross, Gayle M. Volk, Christopher M. Richards, Patrick A. Reeves, Adam D. Henk, Philip L. Forsline, Amy Szewc-McFadden, Gennaro Fazio, and C. Thomas Chao

The USDA-ARS National Plant Germplasm System Malus collection is maintained by the Plant Genetic Resources Unit (PGRU) in Geneva, NY. In the 1990s, a core subset of 258 trees was hand-selected to be representative of the grafted Malus collection. We used a combination of genotypic and phenotypic data to compare the diversity of the 198 diploid trees in the original core subset with that of 2114 diploid trees in the grafted field collection for which data were available. The 198 trees capture 192 of the 232 total microsatellite alleles and have 78 of the 95 phenotypic characters. An addition of 67 specific individuals increases the coverage to 100% of the allelic and phenotypic character states. Several de novo core sets that capture all the allelic and phenotypic character states in 100 individuals are also provided. Use of these proposed sets of individuals will help ensure that a broad range of Malus diversity is included in evaluations that use the core subset of grafted trees in the PGRU collection.