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What makes the two apple species of Central Asia and the other wild species important is that they survive without the assistance of modern, industrial agriculture. These plants are not evolutionary frozen by humans and so they continue to evolve to match the evolution of pests and diseases.

We have thousands of apple, but for the most part according to Forsline, those apples just have six common ancestors: Red Delicious, Golden Delicious, Jonathan, McIntosh ,and Pippin. This doesn't provide enough genetic diversity to be pest and disease resistant.

What also is special about these Central Asian fruit and nut trees is they survive in a more hostile climate than many of our domesticated versions. With climate change, such heartiness and drought-tolerance is important genetic traits.

So while a world without apples is unlikely,  losing these wild species significantly reduces the genes available for horticulturists to help our apples and other fruits and nuts meet new climate and blight challenges.

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You're absolutely right the U.S. engages tit-for-tat economic aide. We currently have the Manas Air Base, in Kyrgyzstan that we use to conduct air strikes on the Taliban and, indirectly, Afghan civilians. Kyrgyzstani President Kurmanbek Bakiyev asked the U.S. to leave by April of this year, but as far as I know the U.S. is still there.

I'm not deliberately trying to make you wince at this, but according to Defense Update, Putin's Muscle Flexing in Central Asia: Challenges Obama:

Another absurdity pertains to the negotiations that the Pentagon is holding with Kyrgyzstan officials over a possible extension in maintaining Manas airbase itself. Manas, named after a Kyrgyz epic hero, gained particular importance for the United States in 2005 when Uzbekistan, another Central Asian nation, evicted U.S. troops from a military base Karshi-Kanabad airfield after a row over 'human rights'. The U.S. government paid the Kyrgys government $17.4 million a year for use of the Manas base, in addition to $150 million annual assistance, which makes a substantial sum in Kyrgyzstan's abominable economy.

This huge sum in itself, if handled wisely, should have become an important lever to get the Kyrgyzian politicians to extend the agreement for at least some years to come until the Afghan crisis is resolved. Moreover, unbelievably, only early last year, the United States government had authorized plans to spend up to $100 million to enlarge loading areas at Manas airbase! Washington and it's intelligence must have been off the mark completely, to become surprised by Bishkek's long expected move.

Saving Central Asia's forests are probably the last thing on the administration's mind.

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Lastly, I know Apple pie is not an American invention -- I believe it is German -- I was struggling for a hook to try to make this interesting for American readers who really could care less about Central Asia, let alone fruit trees.

by Magnifico on Fri May 8th, 2009 at 04:00:58 PM EST
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