Pear (Pyrus species) genetic resources in Iwate, Japan

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Iwateyamanashi (Pyrus ussuriensis Maxim. var. aromatica (Nakai et Kikuchi) Rehd.) is one of the Pyrus species grown wild in Japan. The origin of the Japanese pear (P. pyrifolia) is uncertain but it has been suggested that Iwateyamanashi is the possible progenitor of the modern Japanese cultivar. During the last few decades, the number of Iwateyamanashi trees has been decreasing and therefore, conservation is urgently needed. After 13 explorations in the northern Tohoku region of Japan, 615 pear trees and 30 local names were recognized mainly in Iwate Prefecture. The center of the distribution seemed to be somewhere around Mt. Hayachine to the northern area of Kitakami highlands (from lat. 39 ˆ20′ to 40 ˆ10′N, and from long. 141 ˆ20′ to 141 ˆ50′E). Four morphological characters concerning fruit shape, measured for 85 trees, showed a wide range of continuous variation. For the skin colour of fruit, 51% of trees bore russet type fruits, 22% smooth and 27% intermediate ones. Most of the fruits had five loculi but Sanenashi fruits (seedless pear), one of the old cultivars, had three, and fruits of another two trees had four. More than 80% of trees tended to produce fruits with a calyx but some trees bore fruits without a calyx. These observations indicate a wide range of genetic diversity in Pyrus species which is caused, not only by high heterogeneity in Iwateyamanashi itself, but also by the coexistence of Iwateyamanashi, P. pyrifolia (Burm.) Nakai and hybrid progeny in this area. Already 250 trees have been conserved as genetic resources by grafting at Kobe University.

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