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My cherimoya, shortly before it became smoothie fodder.

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March 1, 2005

Pedigree of 'Honeycrisp' apple.

This may not be the most momentous development in the world of fruit, but I figured this would be a place to post these interesting tidbits as I find them, and I just came across this in the latest HortScience (how old school that I found it in the print journal, then looked up the abstract online...usually it's the other way around). One of the most important elements of breeding fruit is keeping records of where each seedling came from and what you crossed with what. Genetic markers are now telling us just how good, or bad, those records are. In this case, the presumed parents, 'Honeygold' and 'Macoun' were both ruled out as parents, so we can probably discount the possibility of accidental outside pollination and look more at bad record keeping or field labeling as the culprit. Looks like 'Keepsake' may at least be one parent. At least with apples you can be pretty sure it isn't an accidental self.

These sort of yes or no questions ("Is 'Honeygold' a parent of 'Honeycrisp'? No.") are relatively well suited to this sort of study, but there's another sort of study, where people determine genetic relatedness between pedigrees by comparing how many markers are shared by genotypes. I'm not saying whether the group as a whole are right or wrong, but there have been a number out there that would seem to defy all known data on cultivars. The question basically boils down to what you trust more, the recorded pedigrees, or the ability of a comparatively small number of loci to give you an accurate picture of an entire genome. For example, this paper on strawberries found no statistically signficant correlation between AFLP markers and coefficient of coancestry based on pedigree. Now it seems unlikely to me that significant errors in recorded pedigree were made for most of the cultivars in the study, which in my mind casts a little doubt on the AFLP data's usefulness.

People are awfully quick to throw away old means of doing things when I new one comes along...both pedigree and molecular comparisons have their place, but neither is perfect.

'Honeycrisp', by the way, is a darn good apple, wherever it came from, and the University of Minnesota breeding program deserves a big thumbs up for producing it, even if they didn't manage to keep their records straight.

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