Nikolai Vavilov fell out of favour with Stalin and, in a cruel twist of fate for someone who had spent his life studying crops, died of starvation in a Russian prison on 26th January 1943. Meanwhile the fruit forests of the Tian Shan, that he identified as the source of the domestic apple, are themselves under threat. It is estimated that as much as 90% of the wild apple trees that existed in Vavilov’s time around Almaty, Kazakhstan’s largest city, have been lost due to human encroachment. The ancient fruit forests are cleared for housing, deforestation makes way for modern agriculture, trees are felled for wood fuel, and land is overgrazed. As a result, Malus sieversii is now on the international Red List of threatened species.