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[nafex] Re: Are your plants working for you? AKA, Ruthless culling

    I agree with you from one perspective: many of the "old" 
varieties from a taste/texture perspective are not worth saving.  I 
had grafted a bunch of "old" varieties on a tree and then later 
discovered at an apple tasting that most of them were mealy w/out 
much taste.

    But I guess I've read (and maybe I'm being bamboozled here), that 
a large percentage of livestock varieties (and by extension 
horticultural varieties) are rapidly disappearing (i.e. in cattle 
almost all milk production is from Holsteins and beef from Angus as 
both are superior for those given tasks ) and genetic variation is 
being lost.  

    Some of those varieties might contain genes that might be needed 
in the future (maybe this is moot because of genetic engineering). 
You noted that the station was now defunct, so those "varieties" may 
be lost.  I have read that if a characteristic is available in a semi-
domesticated or cultivar it is better to breed from that than from a 
wild variety, as far fewer "undesirable" genes have to be weeded out.

    Of course this comes back to how much of one's own property one 
wants to sink into varieties that aren't "the best".  But I guess I 
feel it does argue for preservation of some of the better older 

Chris Mauchline
SE PA, zone 6

     Also, I enjoyed and appreciate your comparrison to the brief 
influences of a flock of sheep.
     Many (perhaps most) fruit species have had this exact same 
problem, except
that it has hung around for many centuries.  This is possibly the one 
thing which
became crystal clear during my trip to Russia wherein I had the good 
fortune to
view many wild forests of apple and pear.  Also, the collection at 
the now-defunct
Mycop station likewise had an incredible number of really unusual 
wild apples.
     And this continues under the pretentious idea of importance of 
many, if not most old varieities.  The most unusual and intriguing 
thing about this
statement is that with a lot of folks, this very simple observation 
some sort of "blasphemy" or something "bad".
     My good friend Tom Burford was quoted in Frank Browning's book, 
something to the effect, "......far too many folks have a severe case 
     The late Bob Kurle once told me that I should not make such 
statements because
within NAFEX, there were many so-called "preservation minded folks 
who were
unwilling to even look at the facts".
     Later on, sometime in the mid-80s, during a visit with the late 
Fred Janson, I
asked him to address this preservation question.  His response was a 
bit more
detailed or he simply stated that this sort of moral hogwash was 
common to the
acceptible definition of human "logic".  He went on to reference 
basic Darwin
observations of what goes on in the natural process of evolution.  He 
also strongly
emphasized the basic fact that horticulture was exactly like all 
other forms of
food production.  Or, because of the need to feed the population, it 
was totally
artificial in nearly every conceivable way simply because humans were 
the only
species on the planet where a few fed the masses.

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