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National Agriculture in the Classroom

Agricultural Literacy Curriculum Matrix

Companion Resource

Making a New Apple Cultivar

Pair this activity with lessons on selective breeding. Students will identify desirable genetic traits in apples and use a coin flip to simulate the steps and time involved to breed a new cultivar of apple. 

Time to Complete
45 minutes
  1. Ask the students the following questions and have them keep track of their responses since these questions will continue to be discussed throughout the activity. As students respond to the questions, encourage them to think about the different traits apples have and how those traits are determined.
    • How many different varieties of apples can you name? 
    • How many of them have you eaten? 
    • Which are your favorites and why? 
  2. Explain: There are 7,500 different varieties of apples! This is mainly the result of efforts of apple growers and breeders. Apple growers try to find apples that are resistant to disease but are also appealing to the apple eater. To create apples with desirable characteristics, breeders must first find parent apples with those characteristics. Once parents are selected, apple growers and breeders wait until the spring, when the trees bloom. The breeder then transfers pollen from one tree (father) to another (mother) through a process called cross pollination. Once the apple ripens, its seeds are collected and planted. It can take up to 5 years for apple trees to grow and produce fruit. Because inheritance patterns vary, not all of the apples will be the same. In fact, generally only 1 in 5,000 is found to have the desirable characteristics. When a seedling does bear fruit with the desirable characteristics, the apple is selected for further study and evaluation. Once the apple is known to have the desired characteristics, it is chosen as a cultivar. The breeder can now patent the new variety and have the honor of giving the apple its own unique name. 
  3. Distribute a copy of the Making A New Apple Cultivar worksheet (Part A) to each student. 
  4. Show the video - Apple – How Does It Grow? As the students watch the video, have them complete Part A of the worksheet. When they have completed Part A, discuss their responses. The purpose of this part of the activity is to make sure the students understand apple growing and the many different apple varieties and traits. 
  5. Refer to the questions at the beginning of the lesson and ask the students if they want to make any changes in their original responses. 
  6. Turn to Part B of the Making A New Apple Cultivar worksheet. Give each group a set of the Apple Cultivar cards (or the 2 printed pages), a coin, and colored pencils.
  7. Instruct students to follow the step by step instructions on the worksheet to develop a new apple cultivar that contains their desired traits.

Note: If the apples shown on the cards are available in the grocery stores, the actual apples could be used and compared with the information presented on the cards. The Orange Pippin website lists places where the apples can be purchased. 

FDA Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition
FDA Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition

This activity is part of the Science and Our Food Supply: Exploring Food Agriculture and Biotechnology (2020) curriculumFind more classroom activities for middle and high school on the Matrix.

Lessons Associated with this Resource