Scientists have deciphered the DNA code that practically paints the apple red — an advance that is helping breeders develop new apple varieties.
University of Auckland’s (UA) Richard Espley’s work is part of ongoing research into anthocyanins — pigments that are produced by most plants and which range in colour from red through to purple and blue.
As well as making fruit more attractive, anthocyanins are powerful antioxidants and there is growing evidence that they have health benefits. These attributes have seen scientists around the world focusing on their potential for crop improvement.
For apple breeders, the goal is to create flavoursome fruit that have the pigment in their flesh as well as the skin.
While red-fleshed apples grow wild in Central Asia they are generally unpleasant to eat, and the challenge is to combine the health and aesthetic benefits of red flesh with the superior flavour of white-fleshed varieties, said an U release.
Mr. Espley’s research will accelerate the development process and the final product will be a premium apple variety with significant economic potential for apple growers.