Washington State University’s new apple continues rolling forward



(The Center Square) – The Washington State University Department of Horticulture has taken the next major step in producing Washington state’s newest apple by soliciting a partner to make the trees available to growers, as well as choosing a brand name for the new apple next year.

Officially released by WSU for commercial licensing earlier this summer, the new breed of apple – known at this stage as WA 64 – still has a long road ahead of it before its expected 2029 retail debut.

“We’re starting with a small amount of budwood,” Jeremy Tamsen, director of innovation and commercialization for WSU’s College of Agricultural, Human and Natural Resource Sciences, explained Wednesday to WSU Insider. “Part of what we’re looking for in a licensee is someone who can scale that up at nurseries so that commercial growers can buy trees. That supply doesn’t exist today, and it can take years to scale it up.”

“We anticipate entering negotiations with a potential licensee by September, and hope to finalize the license agreement in October,” Tamsen told The Center Square via email.

Those trees are produced by grafting fruit-bearing budwood, also known as scions, onto the rootstock of various trees to see which produces the most resilient pairing.

Unlike traditional agriculture where seeds are planted from generation to generation, in horticulture it is much more common to simply clone the mother tree producing genetically identical offspring – that is, each scion is genetically identical to the original mother tree seedling.

“The main focus of our breeding program is to provide new and improved apples that appeal to consumers and work for the Washington apple industry,” said WSU apple breeder and Department of Horticulture Professor Kate Evans told WSU Insider.

WSU officials hope to follow in their own footsteps with WSU’s previous commercialized apple breed, Cosmic Crisp, which last fall joined the ranks of the ten best selling apples nationwide.

The process isn’t fast however. WA 64 was originally crossbred in 1998.

The breed is a hybrid of Honeycrisp and Cripps Pink and is noted for the fact its quality changes little after months of refrigerated storage. The fruit also resists sunburn and bruising, matures evenly, can be easily harvested and retains flavor and firmness.

It started as one of over 15,000 other unique candidates, which was whittled down to a group of just 50, from which WA 64 was selected. This is a process in which each individual step takes years, which is why getting a new breed to market can take decades.

The new breed also has favorable qualities with regard to harvest timings and growing season windows, which should make it popular among farmers.

“Apples aren’t one-size-fits-all,” Evans said. “Different consumers have different preferences. Isn’t it wonderful that we can release WSU varieties that meet more of those different preferences?”



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