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Kazakhstan's Ancestral Apple Forests

Posted by Karn Piana 
Kazakhstan's Ancestral Apple Forests
June 13, 2018 12:44PM
This topic will be a place to aggregate any and all articles, anecdotes, thoughts, and observations concerning the ancestral Kazakhstan Apple forests from which all modern apples derive. The goal would be to look at the myriad organisms living in these forests, how they interrelate, and discuss them in the hopes that new associations emerge in conversation that might yield new insights in our peers.

To start, here is an article titled, "Sweet Pilgrimage: Two British Apple Growers in the Tian Shan" from Steppe magazine. Tian Shan means "mountains of heaven". The range is a part of the Central Asian Himalayan belt and it's unique ecology includes not only apple dominated forests but also areas that are covered by ancestral walnut and apricot forests.

To share a few interesting observations from the article: The men observe extremely dense suckering stands of apple trees alongside intermittent acer and populus species. Of particular note was the observation that extensive vining of hops was observed. This is noteworthy because there seems to be an ongoing inquiry into the use of hops as a constituent of wholistic practice. This is due to the resinous alpha and beta acids in hops which have potent anti microbial and anti fungal effects. Hops should be something people growing apples should look into it would seem.

Also noteworthy is the observation that in these forests there were observations of the presence of canker and mildew while other adjoining trees were perfectly healthy. It seems almost certain that powerful genetic adaptations have emerged in these forests and it should be imperative for commercial growers to collectively recognize the need to seriously begin to fund research and efforts to understand more of what is in these forests and how they operate. The idea that there is not initiative to do so is staggering considering the unbelievable potential waiting to be discovered. Literal low hanging fruit.

Certain of the forests had their entire floors covered by a huge diversity of decaying apples. That is interesting from a rhizospheric perspective. I would like to find mycological studies conducted in these forests and post them here. I think this area would be extremely important to look into.

The apple seems to have evolved with the bear. Someone should get some bear manure from a zoo and try making some bio dynamic preparations with it.

Karn Piana
Zone 7 Semi-Arid Steppe
Northern New Mexico



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 06/14/2018 01:15AM by Karn Piana.
Re: Kazakhstan's Ancestral Apple Forests
June 13, 2018 08:36PM
Karn Piana Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> To start,
> [url=http://steppemagazine.com/articles/sweet-pilg
> rimage-two-british-apple-growers-in-the-tian-shan/
> ]here[/url] is an article titled, "Sweet
> Pilgrimage: Two British Apple Growers in the Tian
> Shan" from Steppe magazine.

Very nice article Kam. Thanks for posting the link.
I am sure you will be jealous, but I was there last year by end of August...
I had the very special opportunity to be invited in Kazakhstan with three repected colleagues of the cider world: Andrew Lea, author of Craft Cider Making and of numerous scientific publications, Peter Mitchell, founder of the Cider and Perry Academy, and Ryan Burk, head cider maker at Angry Orchards. Pretty good company indeed. And we were like kids in a dream playground...
We were there for the making of a documentary film about the cider potential of the wild apple forests, and trying to identify some trees that produced apples with good potential for cider (I mean hard cider here). This film should be completed by the end of this year and be available on most platforms like Netflix and Amazon Prime.

We did a pretty similar tour as described in the article, although shorter. We visited the Ile-Alatau National Park which is quite close to Almaty, and after that we went on a longer journey to Sarkand, Lepsinsk and Topolevka. In Topolevka, we also met Professor Isin and had the same feast as described in the article inside a yourt, with the sheep's head that was served to Andrew Lea (as he was the older and most respectable of our group). At the Lepsinsk forestry camp, we saw the largest apple tree recorded on the planet: trunk 1 meter diameter, over 3 meters circumference, 17 meters height, estimated age 300 years, and very healthy. Unedible apples however... The park people said there could be larger ones in remote areas of the forest, but these places are not accessible, hence those trees have not been measured and recorded.

We also saw hops growing wild in the apple trees. This did trigger a conversation within the cider making guys, arguing that if hops grow wild in apple trees, then hopped cider makes sense and should become acceptable even for the most purists of us. However the park guide told us that hops had been introduced by man and was not originally native in the area! They also thought that actually, hops would be detrimental to the health of the apple trees, so they remove it when they can.

Another plant we saw a lot surrounding the apple trees is [i]cannabis sativa[/i]. These are native there so it could be interesting to make studies about the influence of one on the other... And how about cannabis flavored cider???

We did make some fascinating observations during this visit and it is interesting to compare the M. sieversii wild apples we saw in these locations with a population of M. domestica natural seedlings such as we can find in our countries.
- On flavor, of the apples tasted (and we tasted quite a number), all had rather familiar apple flavor, with more or less bitterness, astringency, acidity and sugar, in a rather similar range that we may find in domestic apple seedlings. No strange or unfamiliar flavors were noted, although we were told such odd flavors may sometimes exist.
- On size, most apples were on average smaller than what we may observe from wild domestic apple seedlings. This is no doubt due to the fact that humans have systematically selected the larger fruits for their consumption and thus have favored the genes responsible for larger size in the domestic apple population.
- On skin color, yellow and green apples seemed to be in relatively higher ratio in comparison to red or red-striped than we would find in domestic apple seedlings, probably because the genes responsible for the red color were favored by man in the same way as those which are related to size. And on russeting, we didn’t see apples with russet on the skin. I was however told there are russeted apples in some other locations that we didn’t visit. Interestingly, we didn’t see much scabby apples either.
- On cider potential, sure, most of the apples were overly acidic and harsh just like in any wild apple population, but maybe the fruit from one tree out of ten had a flavor profile that could make it useful in cider making. This means good sugar, low to moderate acidity, moderate tannins and nice apple flavor. Interestingly, this ratio is about the same in the populations of domestic apple seedlings that I have seen. We did taste some that could make fine bittersweet or bittersharp cider apple varieties. And if we take the entirety of these forests that contain millions of trees, the potential to discover many superior varieties for cider is phenomenal.

So as you can see, our focus was a lot more on cider making than on apple growing. But there is more than enough there to satisfy any sort of apple geek focus!

Claude

[url=http://groworganicapples.com/profile.php?pid=6]Jolicoeur Orchard[/url]
Zone 4 in Quebec
Re: Kazakhstan's Ancestral Apple Forests
June 14, 2018 01:14AM
What an amazing experience. I am looking forward to your film, please post a notice when it's out. The idea that there are remote areas that few local people visit and describe as inaccessible is incredible to me. In an era with no blank spots left on maps, the dormant potential and the importance of these forests is immeasurable.

After some digging I was able to find a paper titled, "Diversity of MicroFungi in Fruit Forests of Ili-Alatau National Park (Kazakhstan)", published by the Institute of Botany and Phytointroduction, and the Institute of Microbiology and Virology, both in Almaty, Kazakhstan.

The paper is a complete listing of micromycetes found on the trees and bushes of fruit forests in Ili-Alatau National Park: Malus sieversii, Armeniaca vulgaris, Sorbus tianschanica, Crataegus spp., Rosa spp., Padus avium, Lonicera spp., Ribes meyeri, Rhamnus cathartica, Berberis heteropoda.

The paper lists 39 species of fungi belonging to 36 genera associated with malus. At the time the paper was written, they describe 90% of trees as being infected with apple scab fungus (Spilocaea pomi), The authors describe the presence of CAR (Gymnosporangium juniperinum), as well as mildews, etc. In a forest of millions of malus susceptible to the same pathogenic vectors as encountered by M. domestica, the potential for genetic resistance or immunity is almost certain to exist.

Karn Piana
Zone 7 Semi-Arid Steppe
Northern New Mexico



Edited 5 time(s). Last edit at 06/14/2018 02:04AM by Karn Piana.
Re: Kazakhstan's Ancestral Apple Forests
June 14, 2018 10:18AM
USDA-ARS article on Malus Sieversii program

Karn Piana
Zone 7 Semi-Arid Steppe
Northern New Mexico
Re: Kazakhstan's Ancestral Apple Forests
June 14, 2018 10:56AM
I have removed the links as there is private material which should not be open to the whole world...
If you need them again, just send me a private msg.
Claude

Jolicoeur Orchard
Zone 4 in Quebec



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 06/18/2018 09:41PM by Claude Jolicoeur.
Re: Kazakhstan's Ancestral Apple Forests
June 15, 2018 10:45PM
Thanks for the links Claude. I'm in the process of reading the article by Dzangaliev and thus far it's very informative. I would recommend it to others who might be interested in this subject as it is very comprehensive. This thread is shaping up nicely with a summary coverage: anecdotal accounts, a nice horticultural coverage, a micro-mycological survey (it would be useful to add the macro), an update on ongoing usda programs, and now some really cool video footage. Perhaps some information on the insect realms living there and maybe a thing or two on the soils (if not already present in Dzangaliev's paper), and then we'll have a nice resource and conversation topic all in one.

My first impression of the video footage was how similar the climate and environment looked to the one here in New Mexico. We get 14 inches of rain annually and Ile-Alatau gets 15.7". Our focus will not be emphasizing apples, but your footage is very thought provoking. It might be cool to grow a select M. sieversii or two in our system. I understand more of the scale and scope of these forests after having watched your footage. I'm very happy for you that you got to visit these places and I will definitely watch the film when it comes out.

Personally, my interests are currently related to how forest systems build up from components. I'm interested in soil biology as a foundation, how that moves up through trophic tiers, and in the case of Kazakhstan, what those specific tiers are. What specific plants, animals, insects, and fungi natively exist in a primordial fruit tree forest? What can we extrapolate and learn from this when we seek to interact and alter the world of our immediate surroundings? How can we build agriculture that mirrors the genetic needs and reflects the basis of the biologic webs from which it evolved...

I thought having a specific thread for the ancestral origin of the apple might be useful as well to those here on this forum interested in various pathogens and stressors effecting their endeavors.

Karn Piana
Zone 7 Semi-Arid Steppe
Northern New Mexico
Re: Kazakhstan's Ancestral Apple Forests
June 16, 2018 08:17PM
Here is an interesting slideshow of an apple enthusiasts visit to Kazakhstan's apple fruit forests:
photos of giant trees, a meeting with Dzhangaliev, references to exotic flavors of apples, lists of other plants growing in these forests....

Karn Piana
Zone 7 Semi-Arid Steppe
Northern New Mexico
Re: Kazakhstan's Ancestral Apple Forests
June 18, 2018 10:23AM
Here is an excellent summary of a visit by Robyn Mello to the USDA ARS in Geneva NY and their huge orchard of malus species, including Sieversii. It would seem that orchardists are able to request any grafting material in their catalog and receive grafting stock without charge. The article is comprehensive, lots of links to resources and further study, photos and descriptions of flavors.

Karn Piana
Zone 7 Semi-Arid Steppe
Northern New Mexico
Re: Kazakhstan's Ancestral Apple Forests
June 18, 2018 10:45AM
2006 article on USDA ARS the ongoing research of the Kazakhstan apple .

Karn Piana
Zone 7 Semi-Arid Steppe
Northern New Mexico
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