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Apples Then & Now & Correction - Magnolia Jean Louise

Are the apples you eat really sweeter than they were three decades ago; and a correction about Magnolia Jean Louise about which I erred last week!
by Art Drysdale
by Art Drysdale

email: art@artdrysdale.com

Art Drysdale, a life-long resident of Toronto and a horticulturist well known all across Canada, is now a resident of Parksville, British Columbia on Vancouver Island, just north of Nanaimo. He has reno-vated an old home and has a new garden there. His radio gardening vignettes are heard in south-western Ontario over radio station Easy 101 FM out of Tillsonburg at 2 PM weekdays.

Art also has his own website at http://www.artdrysdale.com


September 1, 2013

Above: A good looking bunch of Fuji apples; and below the newly introduced Magnolia ‘KLMVV’ Jean Louise™.

What is your favorite apple variety? For me it is between Macintosh, Gala and Granny Smith. The latter, of course is almost always an import, at least in Ontario, although I can tell you a true story about an apple grower in Ontario who does grow them, and when I took one over to the growers co-op in Elgin, Cape Province, South Africa, they were very impressed with the quality in every way. It is a story for another time and also involves a disbelieving marketing board official in Ontario!

If your answer to the question was ‘Fuji’ you would be echoing what my friend Larry Sherk in Toronto would say I am sure. He has always said he liked their crispness etc. Well, just this week I came across some research carried out by T. Sugiura, H. Ogawa, N. Fukuda, and T. Moriguchi, and reported in the journal Scientific Reports and then written up by Heidi Ledford in the August 15 issue of Nature, the international weekly journal of science. Heidi writes about biology and medicine, and has a PhD from the University of California, Berkeley.

Here is what she reported.

“Those who find satisfaction in the crunch of a hard apple have reason to be worried about climate change: a 40-year study of Japanese apple orchards has found that global warming is producing softer--but sweeter--apples.

“The work, published August 15th in Scientific Reports, joins a growing body of research that describes how changes in climate are affecting iconic foods. The findings mean that Japan’s beloved Fuji apples join the ranks of other plants that are likely to have their harvests altered by warming temperatures, such as wine grapes and the sugar maple trees [Acer saccharum] used to make maple syrup.

“‘Climate changes are impacting the everyday lives of real people,’ says Christopher Field, an ecologist at the Carnegie Institution for Science in Stanford, California, who was not involved with the work. ‘It is not just an abstraction.’

“Previous work had shown that rising temperatures could make apple trees flower earlier. Fruit-tree specialist Toshihiko Sugiura of the National Agriculture and Food Research Organization in Tsukuba, Japan, and his colleagues decided to look at how this shift affects the quality of the fruit. The team analysed four decades' worth of data collected from two varieties of apple--Fuji and Tsugaru--grown in the Nagano and Aomori prefectures.

“They found that the hardness and acidity of the apples had declined during that time, while their sweetness had increased. The changes may not be apparent to consumers because they took place so gradually, says Toshihiko Sugiura. ‘But if you could eat an average apple harvested 30 years before and an average apple harvested recently at the same time, you would really taste the difference,’ he says.

“Gregory Jones of Southern Oregon University in Ashland, who studies the effects of climate change on wine grapes, says that the results of this and other studies--including his own unpublished work on pears--are beginning to fall into a pattern: warmer temperatures coax plants into flowering earlier and yielding riper, sweeter fruit at harvest.

“The findings will help to inform efforts to breed new varieties of fruit crops that can cope better with the changing climate, or could encourage a change in farming practices to account for warmer temperatures. Such information can also alter calculations of the relative costs and benefits of easing climate change, adds Christopher Field: ‘If climate change is causing this damage, we need to put that into our equation about how willing we are to take steps to minimize that damage.’”

* * *

In last week’s article I described a new Magnolia known as ‘KLMVV’ or Jean Louise™. I discovered it in the Wayside Gardens on-line catalogue and it seemed a real beauty that was reasonably hardy. As I checked the company’s Website, I found NO reference to any species for the new cultivar. From some of the descriptive terms they used for the plant, I made the assumption that it was an evergreen cultivar, such as Magnolia grandiflora ‘Edith Bogue’ which I grew successfully at my Nesbitt Drive home in Toronto, although I was not successful in having it flower up to when we sold the house in 2002.

When I realized the Wayside Gardens Website was vague about the species, I sent a quick e-mail to the company on Friday of last week, and while I did get an almost immediate response, they did not have an answer for me. They wrote and said they could not find the information on their Website, and thus would have to check with a horticulturist! Of course, I knew it was not on the Website.

Well, on the Tuesday following, I did hear from Stephan Winterfeldt who identified himself as a horticulturist, and who said that, “Actually, Magnolia Jean Louise is deciduous not evergreen.”

I do not know how important that false bit of information was to readers, but I regret the error—I certainly know the rule about not making assumptions, and it came back to bite me.

Meanwhile, next week here, I think I’ll be back to some more new and newer plants for your garden next year.

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