Heirloom top fruit varieties lost from memory

Pests and diseases pose a serious threat to our contemporary top fruit varieties. However, we may very well be able to overcome such constraints by setting up germplasm collections. These collections – called gene banks – ideally should contain as many varieties as possible of what is left of the wide spectrum of historic fruit varieties.
By doing so, large numbers of useful genetic traits are brought together to select from under comparable conditions of pest and disease stresses. Useful traits such as resistance to pests and diseases play a major role in the sustainability of food crops.
Germplasm collections can also play a major role in the development of new crop varieties which are better adapted to current climate changes.

Thanks to private initiatives, a significant part of historic varietal diversity has been traced and is, for the time being, kept safe.
Thankfully a number of amateur orchard men recognized the importance of maintaining heritage top fruit varieties.
Thus, also, a significant volume of invaluable know how that has been accumulated in such collections may be safeguarded for the future. Relevant information as to a significant number of heritage varieties that have been inadequately described, if at all, might thus be safeguarded for future generations.

Hennie Rossel*

* Member of the Northern Pomological Society, and the Research Group ‘Friends of Heirloom Top Fruit. Collaborating with the Museum of Fruit Production, in Kapelle, province of Zeeland (The Netherlands), top fruit Study Group ‘Achterhoek’, province of Gelderland (The Netherlands), and various individuals within the Netherlands and abroad with whom we share and exchange heirloom fruit and information relevant to it.