Researchers in Shandong province are “grieving” the loss of dozens of apples that were part of a four-year-long study after some unidentified fruit thieves nabbed them from their lab trees this week.
Han Mingsan, The Deputy Director of Fruit and Tea Research at the Qingdao Academy of Agricultural Sciences in Shandong province, discovered the ravaging during a routine visit to the Bijiacun village orchard on the morning of October 18, according to China Daily.
All of the full-grown apples on the three lab trees had been plucked off, leaving only a few premature apples dangling from the branches.
The research team had begun cultivating the apples more than four years ago, and the first harvest was expected in just a few days. Han said the the apples were worth much more than they could ever be sold for.
Their study aimed to produce apples that would look and taste better. As a bonus for growers, the apples didn’t require paper wrapping, saving them at least 3,000 yuan per mu (666 square meters). Mass planting in Qingdao alone could save farmers hundreds of million of yuan, Han said.
The team notified police, but understandably, they don’t have much hope for recovering the stolen apples—the gnawed-upon cores of which are probably now strewn across the village’s streets.