, Volume 60, Issue 4, pp 1463-1477
Date: 18 Nov 2012

Assessment of phenotypic variation of Malus orientalis in the North Caucasus region

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Malus orientalis Uglitzk. is the predominant Malus species of the Caucasian forests distributed in the north of Anatolia, Armenia, Russia as well as in Iran. It is considered as one of the probable minor ancestors of domestic apples. Although M. orientalis has a lower diversity of fruit quality, other valuable traits such as later blooming, adaptation to a wider array of habitats, and capacity for longer storage of the apples should be taken into account for improving the genetic makeup of the domestic apple. A joint expedition of scientists of the Julius Kühn-Institute from Germany and the Nikolaj I. Vavilov Research Institute of Plant Industry from Russia was performed into the North Caucasus region during August/September 2011. Altogether 101 M. orientalis accessions were collected from eight sites at the North Caucasus. Twenty-six traits such as size, color, shape, flavor and firmness of fruit and tree habit were used for phenotypic evaluation of the accessions. A high phenotypic diversity within the collected material of M. orientalis was indicated. Accessions characterized by suitable fruit traits like bigger size, larger cover color, less bitterness and better firmness as well as more sweetness and better flavor were found. However, small-sized flavorless fruits were also detected. Tree habit varied widely from upright to weeping. Subsequently, a comprehensive phenotypic and genetic evaluation of M. orientalis increases the knowledge of diversity, may provide new resources of agronomically important traits for breeding purposes, and gives support to determine accessions for a core collection.