Sunday, October 19, 2008

Frankenfruit!

Today, gentle reader, step into my laboratory for a tale of science run amok. As related a few years ago in The Fruit Blog, two years before the accident at Three Mile Island researchers in Ohio decided that a little radiation might create a better Melrose.

Mutant apples? Oh right, like you've never thought of it.

Large amounts of scion wood was collected and sent to the Ohio State University Hospital in Columbus where the wood was exposed to radiation. Calls to radiation experts found that no one had a guide for how much radiation was necessary, so the scion wood was divided into three lots and exposed at a best guess rate and rates to either side of it.

The experiment was not a success:

Instead of “shaking up the genes” in an effort to find a beneficial mutation, we had fried the graft tissue.

Ouch.

But, dear reader, does sublime Science give up so easily? Nay, of course not--but to make a long story short

. . . so much for nearly 25 years of research. I use this as an object lesson for why there are fewer and fewer tree fruit breeding programs at our state universities. You are not guaranteed success, no matter how much time, effort, and resources you bring to the program.

The Fruit Blog leans towards serious growers but still has plenty of matter for amateurs like me. The above story is from John Schmid (whom I picture reminding us that mutations occur naturally all the time).


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