Where do seedless grapes come from?

17 December 2006

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Question

Where do seedless grapes come from?

Answer

The correct answer is that the plants that grow them are actually clones. So instead of growing them from seeds, they're grown from cuttings taken from existing plants. Obviously, the first seedless grapes were from a plant that arose through mutation - a genetic change - that meant that it didn't have seeds. And, presumably, some grower noticed this. He or she would have taken a little shoot or a stem off the plant, put it in the ground, and a new plant - genetically identical to the seedless parent - would have grown. In fact, this is how a lot of plants are cultivated now, and also a lot of seedless varieties. But, this technique is causing problems in some cases. Bananas, because they're all clones, are getting struck down by fungi - like Panama disease. And if a population is created by cloning, all of the plants are genetically identical, so they can very easily be wiped out because the plants have the same defences to a pathogen. And if the pathogen evolves to sumount this defence, every cloned plant is susceptible...

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