Scientists have deciphered the DNA code which makes apple flesh red, a finding they claim can lead to healthier and more colourful fruit.
An international team, led by Auckland University in New Zealand, has carried out a research which analysed a gene called anthocyanins which actually controls production of red pigment in apple flesh.
Anthocyanins are pigments produced by most plants and which range in colour from red through to purple and blue. As well as making fruit more attractive, these anthocyanins are powerful antioxidants and there is growing evidence that they have health benefits.
For apple breeders, the goal is to create flavoursome fruit that have the pigment in their flesh and skin, according to the scientists.
While red-fleshed apples grow wild in Central Asia they are generally unpleasant to eat, and the challenge is to combine the health and aesthetic benefits of red flesh with the superior flavour of white-fleshed varieties.
The research, led by Dr Richard Espley, will accelerate the development process and the final product will be a premium apple variety with significant economic potential for growers.
As well as opening up new avenues for apple breeding, the research has potential for other cultivated plants.
Anthocyanins are not only found in apples and other fruit, but in all plant tissues, giving colour to flowers and protecting leaves against sun-damage amongst other roles, so the opportunities are vast.