Your site often mentions "sports" - what exactly are they?

Question

Your site often mentions "sports" of other fruit varieties - what exactly are they?

Richard from York, UK

Answer

A sport is a naturally occurring genetic mutation, which usually occurs when a new bud forms and then grows to become a shoot or fruit bud. Observant nurseryman and growers will notice these in their orchards, because typically a whole branch will have a distinctly different look to it.

Sports can produce all kinds of variations but the ones most valuable in fruit-growing are when the fruit of the sport is of an improved colour. Red Delicious for example is a red-coloured sport of the original Delicious apple (which is primarily a yellow apple with red flushes). Another example is the popular English apple Norfolk Royal Russet, which is a very heavily russeted form of Norfolk Royal.

When a sport is found, usually as a branch or shoot on a mother tree, it can be propagated in the nursery by taking cuttings. The resulting trees should then have all the attributes of the sport.

However whilst the colour of the fruit can be very different, most other characteristics will be identical to the parent tree - growth, disease resistance and so on.



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