Cider producer Sandford Orchards has announced a research project in collaboration with Bristol University to identify and conserve apple trees in the UK.

After winning a grant from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA), Sandford Orchards will be conducting national research on apple tree varieties over the coming months. 

The Sandford team will work with Bristol University scientist Keith Edwards, who will collect DNA samples from apple trees in cider orchards with the aim of mapping the different varieties. The research will take place across Sandford’s Devon sites as well as RHS Rosemoor as researchers look to produce a national picture of the UK’s apple varieties. 

Edwards’ team will share the results of the project later this year. 

Barny Butterfield, chief cidermaker at Sandford Orchards, said: “Apples are at the heart of everything that we do…We take our stewardship of these precious natural wonders very seriously and we are thrilled to be unlocking some of the secrets of these and other orchards that have long been forgotten.

“This ground breaking research aims to fingerprint thousands of apple trees in order to locate and propagate unique and threatened varieties.”The move follows a similar project by Thatchers in 2021.