Most people love the juicy crunch of a crisp apple. But there may be fewer to enjoy as the world warms.


Apple trees need cold temperatures to create buds. So a mild winter can prevent them from growing fruit. And an early spring can make them flower prematurely.

VOLK: “And when they flower early, there’s also a good chance that a hard frost or some cold weather’s going to come through while they’re in the flowering phase and that can massively damage the flowers and cause them to abort and not make fruit.”

That’s Gayle Volk with the U.S. Department of Agriculture. She says that nearly all the apples we enjoy today first evolved in central Asia. Wild apple trees still grow there, and their genes may contain traits that make trees growing in the United States more resilient, like genes that make them resistant to mild winters or to diseases that are likely to spread as the climate warms.

Gayle Volk
Gayle Volk

The USDA collects wild apple varieties and has one of the most diverse collections of apple trees in the world. And the collection, which includes some of these more resilient varieties, is available to the public.

VOLK: “And so breeders can bring in some of this new resistance and make the new cultivars more able to survive different conditions.”

”Genes Click To Tweet

So we can continue to enjoy apples for years to come.

Reporting credit: Les Vonderlin/ChavoBart Digital Media.
Apples photo credit: USDA

More Resources
Capturing the diversity of apple genetic resources
Apple and pear production in a changing climate
Climate change threatens crunchy, tart apples
Kazakhstan the home of the apple

Sara Peach is the editor-in-chief of Yale Climate Connections. She is an environmental journalist whose work has appeared in National Geographic, Scientific American, Environmental Health News, Grist,...