DNA fingerprinting

Each year, as summer fades to autumn, enthusiastic gardeners often contact East Malling Research (EMR) with samples of apples, keen to know what variety they have growing in their garden. Perhaps they have moved house and ‘inherited’ a new tree (or trees), or maybe lost the label from a tree given as a gift. For many reasons finding out exactly what is growing in the garden can be highly desirable.

EMR doesn’t offer a free variety identification service, but we do have lots of helpful advice for this rather specialist activity.

The single best method of getting your fruit identified is to take a sample of fruit and leaf material to one of the many identification events held each autumn. These are advertised on-line and are held up and down the country – when you are at the event, the fruit variety identification is usually free. The Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) organises a number of these events per year with dates advertised annually on their website.

Brogdale Collections, home of the National Fruit Collection, offer a £20 per variety postal service. You should allow approximately 8 weeks minimum for reply, sometimes longer in the busy peak months of October, November and December. Full information on this great service can be found by clicking here.

As an alternative to taking fruit to an expert, we highly recommend the fantastic ’fruitID’ website which can be found at http://www.fruitid.com/ (or by googling the term ‘fruitID’ or putting ‘fruitID’ in your  internet browser’s search facility). ‘fruitID’ isn’t primarily intended for public use, but the search options, images and resulting background varietal information are now second to none. Well worth a look, even if you have had your variety identified by an expert.

Of course, even expert ID judgement isn’t a 100% guarantee of accuracy and there is one last option. EMR offers a DNA Fingerprinting Service – this may be an expensive option for individual samples for ‘amateur interest’, but it does produce the most reliable answer possible. Moreover, this service utilises leaves or fruit (young leaves are best), so you don’t have to wait until the autumn or send off your valued home-produced fruit! More information on this service can be found here.

The fruitID website is an invaluable reference source for apple varieties. Extension of the site to include additional crops, e.g.pears are being planned.

The DNA Fingerprinting Service, based at EMR, offers accurate identification of several crops including: apples, pears, cherries, strawberries and raspberries.

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