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The apple is the pomaceous fruit of the apple tree, species Malus domestica in the rose family Rosaceae. It is one of the most widely cultivated tree fruits. The tree is small and deciduous, reaching tall, with a broad, often densely twiggy crown. The leaves are alternately arranged simple ovals 5 to 12 cm long and broad on a petiole with an acute tip, serrated margin and a slightly downy underside. Blossoms are produced in spring simultaneously with the budding of the leaves. The flowers are white with a pink tinge that gradually fades, five petaled, and in diameter. The fruit matures in autumn, and is typically diameter. The center of the fruit contains five carpels arranged in a five-point star, each carpel containing one to three seeds
The tree originated from Central Asia, where its wild ancestor is still found today. There are more than 7,500 known cultivars of apples resulting in a range of desired characteristics. Cultivars vary in their yield and the ultimate size of the tree, even when grown on the same rootstock. Apples can be found in many colors including red, yellow, orange and green. Apples are rich in vitamin C and also contain B-complex vitamins and vitamin k.
At least 55 million tons of apples were grown worldwide in 2005, with a value of about $10 billion. China produced about 35% of this total. The United States is the second leading producer, with more than 7.5% of the world production. Turkey, France, Italy, and Iran are also among the leading apple exporters.
The wild ancestors of Malus domestica are Malus sieversii, which is found growing wild in the mountains of Central Asia in southern Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Xinjiang,China, and possibly also Malus sylvestris.
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In the wild, apples grow quite readily from seeds. However, like most perennial fruits, apples are ordinarily propagated asexually by grafting. This is because seedling apples are an example of "Extreme heterozygotes", in that rather than inheriting DNA from their parents to create a new apple with those characteristics, they are instead different from their parents, sometimes radically. Triploids have an additional reproductive barrier in that the 3 sets of chromosomes cannot be divided evenly during meiosis yielding unequal segregation of the chromosomes (aneuploids). Even in the very unusual case when a triploid plant can produce a seed (apples are an example), it happens infrequently, and seedlings rarely survive. Most new apple cultivars originate as seedlings, which either arise by chance or are bred by deliberately crossing cultivars with promising characteristics. The words 'seedling', 'pippin', and 'kernel' in the name of an apple cultivar suggest that it originated as a seedling. Apples can also form bud sports (mutations on a single branch). Some bud sports turn out to be improved strains of the parent cultivar. Some differ sufficiently from the parent tree to be considered new cultivars.
Breeders can produce more rigid apples through crossing. For example, the Excelsior Experiment Station of the University of Minnesota has, since the 1930s, introduced a steady progression of important hardy apples that are widely grown, both commercially and by backyard orchardists, throughout Minnesota and Wisconsin. Its most important introductions have included 'Haralson' (which is the most widely cultivated apple in Minnesota), 'Wealthy', 'Honeygold', and Honeycrisp'.
Apples have been acclimatized in Ecuador at very high altitudes, where they provide crops twice per year because of constant temperate conditions in a whole year.
Apples are self-incompatible; they must cross-pollinate to develop fruit. During the flowering each season, apple growers usually provide pollinators to carry the pollen. Honeybee hives are most commonly used. Orchard mason bees are also used as supplemental pollinators in commercial orchards. Bumble bee queens are sometimes present in orchards, but not usually in enough quantity to be significant pollinators.
There are four to seven pollination groups in apples depending on climate:
- Group A – Early flowering, May 1 to 3 in England (Gravenstein, Red Astrachan)
- Group B – May 4 to 7 (Idared, McIntosh)
- Group C – Mid-season flowering, May 8 to 11 (Granny Smith, Cox's Orange Pippin)
- Group D – Mid/Late season flowering, May 12 to 15 (Golden Delicious, Calville blanc d'hiver)
- Group E – Late flowering, May 16 to 18 (Braeburn, Reinette d'Orléans)
- Group F – May 19 to 23 (Suntan)
- Group H – May 24 to 28 (Court-Pendu Gris) (also called Court-Pendu plat)
One cultivar can be pollinated by a compatible cultivar from the same group or close (A with A, or A with B, but not A with C or D).
Varieties are sometimes classed as to the day of peak bloom in the average 30 day blossom period, with pollinizers selected from varieties within a 6 day overlap period.
Maturation and HarvestEdit
Cultivars vary in their yield and the ultimate size of the tree, even when grown on the same rootstock. Some cultivars, if left unpruned, will grow very large, which allows them to bear much more fruit, but makes harvesting very difficult. Mature trees typically bear 40 kg of apples each year, though productivity can be close to zero in poor years. Apples are harvested using three-point ladders that are designed to fit amongst the branches. Dwarf trees will bear about 10 kg of fruit per year.
Commercially, apples can be stored for some months in controlled-atmosphere chambers to delay ethylene-induced onset of ripening. The apples are commonly stored in chambers with higher concentrations of carbon dioxide with high air filtration. This prevents ethylene concentrations from rising to higher amounts and preventing ripening from moving too quickly. Ripening begins when the fruit is removed. For home storage, most varieties of apple can be stored for approximately two weeks, when kept at the coolest part of the refrigerator (i.e. below 5 °C). Some types of apple, including the Granny Smith and Fuji, have an even longer shelf life.
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There are more than 7,500 known cultivars of apples. Different cultivars are available for temperate and subtropical climates. One large collection of over 2100  apple cultivars is housed at the National Fruit Collection in England. Most of these cultivars are bred for eating fresh (dessert apples), though some are cultivated specifically for cooking (cooking apples) or producing cider. Cider apples are typically too tart and astringent to eat fresh, but they give the beverage a rich flavour that dessert apples cannot.
Commercially popular apple cultivars are soft but crisp. Other desired qualities in modern commercial apple breeding are a colourful skin, absence of russeting, ease of shipping, lengthy storage ability, high yields, disease resistance, typical "Red Delicious" apple shape, long stem (to allow pesticides to penetrate the top of the fruit), and popular flavour. Modern apples are generally sweeter than older cultivars, as popular tastes in apples have varied over time. Most North Americans and Europeans favour sweet, subacid apples, but tart apples have a strong minority following. Extremely sweet apples with barely any acid flavour are popular in Asia and especially India.
Old cultivars are often oddly shaped, russeted, and have a variety of textures and colours. Some find them to have a better flavour than modern cultivators, but may have other problems which make them commercially unviable, such as low yield, liability to disease, or poor tolerance for storage or transport. A few old cultivars are still produced on a large scale, but many have been kept alive by home gardeners and farmers that sell directly to local markets. Many unusual and locally important cultivars with their own unique taste and appearance exist; apple conservation campaigns have sprung up around the world to preserve such local cultivars from extinction. In the United Kingdom old cultivars such as Cox's Orange Pippin and Egremont Russet are still commercially important even though by modern standards they are low yielding and disease prone.
- Elzebroek, A.T.G.; Wind, K. (2008). Guide to Cultivated Plants. Wallingford: CAB International. p. 27. ISBN 1845933567. http://books.google.co.uk/books?id=YvU1XnUVxFQC&lpg=PT39&dq=apple%20cultivars%207%2C500&pg=PT39#v=onepage&q=&f=false.
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Rootstocks used to control tree size have been used in apple cultivation for over 2,000 years. Dwarfing rootstocks were probably discovered by chance in Asia. Alexander the Great sent samples of dwarf apple trees back to his teacher, Aristotle in Greece. They were maintained at the Lyceum, a center of learning in Greece.
Most modern apple rootstocks were bred in the 20th century. Much research into the existing rootstocks was begun at the East Malling Research Station in Kent, England. Following that research, Malling worked with the John Innes Institute and Long Ashton to produce a series of different rootstocks with disease resistance and a range of different sizes, which have been used all over the world.
Pests and diseases
The trees are susceptible to a number of fungal and bacterial diseases and insect pests. Many commercial orchards pursue an aggressive program of chemical sprays to maintain high fruit quality, tree health, and high yields. A trend in orchard management is the use of organic methods. These use a less aggressive and direct methods of conventional farming. Instead of spraying potent chemicals, often shown to be potentially dangerous and maleficent to the tree in the long run, organic methods include encouraging or discouraging certain cycles and pests. To control a specific pest, organic growers might encourage the prosperity of its natural predator instead of outright killing it, and with it the natural biochemistry around the tree. Organic apples generally have the same or greater taste than conventionally grown apples, with reduced cosmetic appearances.
A wide range of pests and diseases can affect the plant; three of the more common diseases/pests are mildew, aphids and apple scab.
- Mildew: which is characterized by light grey powdery patches appearing on the leaves, shoots and flowers, normally in spring. The flowers will turn a creamy yellow colour and will not develop correctly. This can be treated in a manner not dissimilar from treating Botrytis; eliminating the conditions which caused the disease in the first place and burning the infected plants are among the recommended actions to take.
- Aphids: There are five species of aphids commonly found on apples: apple grain aphid, rosy apple aphid, apple aphid, spirea aphid and the woolly apple aphid. The aphid species can be identified by their colour, the time of year when they are present and by differences in the cornicles, which are small paired projections from the rear of aphids. Aphids feed on foliage using needle like mouth parts to suck out plant juices. When present in high numbers, certain species may reduce tree growth and vigor.
- Apple scab: Symptoms of Scab are olive-green or brown blotches on the leaves. The blotches turn more brown as time progresses. Then brown scabs on the fruit. The diseased leaves will fall early and the fruit will become increasingly covered in scabs - eventually the fruit skin will crack. Although there are chemicals to treat Scab, their use might not be encouraged as they are quite often systematic, which means they are absorbed by the tree, and spread throughout the fruit.
Among the most serious disease problems are fireblight, a bacterial disease; and Gymnosporangium rust, and black spot, two fungal diseases.
Young apple trees are also prone to mammal pests like mice and deer, which feed on the soft bark of the trees, especially in winter.
- Coli, William et al.. "Apple Pest Management Guide". University of Massachusetts Amherst. http://www.umass.edu/fruitadvisor/NEAPMG/index.htm. Retrieved 3 March 2008.
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