Wednesday, May 16, 2007

NAU's research into preserving orchards bears fruit

[Source: Associated Press] -- Wolf River. Rome Beauty. Baldwin. Arkansas Black. And, of course, the Red and Yellow Delicious. Slide Rock State Park in Oak Creek Canyon isn't just about swimming, sliding and sunning. The park, which is the site of the Pendley family homestead, has a number of historic buildings and apple orchards. "The reason historical trees are interesting is because the industrialization of agriculture took the place of local home-growers,'' said Kanin Routson, a graduate student at Northern Arizona University specializing in environmental sciences and policy. Routson's specialty is fruit-bearing trees, and he has been working on helping Slide Rock State Park officials preserve the orchards.

Of the more than a dozen varieties of apples that used to exist in the orchards, only six remain, Routson said. Varieties were lost by fire, or drought or other natural causes. Northern Arizona University, through the work of the Center for Sustainable Environments, has been attempting to help preserve the remaining historical apple trees. The importance of preserving apple varieties centers on disease, Routson said. For instance, if there is only one kind of apple available worldwide, and a disease that targets that specific apple tree kills all the trees, apples will cease to exist. The more varieties of apples, the less a chance of losing apples to time. Routson said that before the 1930s, there were more than 14,000 apple varieties available worldwide. Only about 10 percent of the apple varieties exist today. The reason for the reduction is finding a consistently good-tasting, hearty variety that would sell well at market, Routson said. No longer were apples sought for specialties _ like one apple for making cider, and another apple for making apple pie. At the park, the largest volume of trees _ about 200 of the 300 _ bear Red Delicious apples. [Note: To read the full article, click here.]