While not associated with the Midwest Apple Improvement Association as its apple breeder, Ohio State University’s Dr. Diane Doud Miller has credentials as an apple geneticist and researcher with a special interest in working with apples from their original home in the central Asian countries that were once part of the Soviet Union.
She also grew up on an Indiana fruit farm where she saw the devastation late freezes can cause. She is listed as a special advisor to the MAIA.
When the Soviet Union collapsed, United States researchers, led by Phillip Forsline, the curator of the USDA’s Plant Genetics Resources Unit at Geneva, New York, organized an apple collection mission in 1995. A decade later, as a Fulbright Scholar, Miller traveled to Kazakhstan to collect apples with a wide array of diverse genetic traits—including red flesh and disease resistance—from the place in the world where apples originated and grow wild in pure forest stands.
Some of the seedlings from Kazakhstan, and many others, are now growing, protected by deer fence, at the Dawes Arboretum in Newark, Ohio. There are several thousand trial seedlings from the MAIA, about 900 from Kazakhstan, about 30 elite Kazakh lines selected by Forsline at USDA, and several of Jules Janick’s PRI releases or advanced selections.
Miller also made lasting contacts with researchers in both Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan, where apples grow wild in the Tien Shan Mountains.
While Ohio is not today a leading producer of apples, its historical record is significant. Ohio was the home of John Chapman, known in the early 1800s as Johnny Appleseed, who spread apple seedlings from New England across the Midwest.