YAKIMA, Wash. — Nearly 20 years after fruit breeders made the initial cross, the first release from Washington State University’s apple breeding program finally hit store shelves this season.
But some within the industry questioned why WA 2, as the variety was called, wasn’t given a proper name before being released.
So the university and an advisory group are reviewing the process before releasing the next variety in the pipeline, WA 38, said pome fruit breeder Kate Evans, who’s based at the Washington State University Tree Fruit and Extension Center, Wenatchee.
“We haven’t quite determined how it’s going to come out yet,” she said. “It will be a different release strategy than WA 2, but both are restricted to Washington state growers.”
She was referring to one of the breeding program’s requirements that nursery tree sales be limited to Washington growers because their assessments helped support the efforts.
One grower marketed a limited number of the new WA 2 — a firm pinkish-red fruit with long storage and shelf life — under the varietal name Crimson Delight this fall, Evans said.
The university began advanced grower trials in 2007 and released WA 2 for commercialization in 2010.
WA 38 is expected to be released shortly, and Evans said nurseries have been ramping up tree propagation.
Once the university gives the go ahead, she said it will likely take nurseries until 2016 to produce enough trees for commercial plantings.
Retailers and consumers will then have to wait several additional years for newly planted orchards to come into production.
WA 38, a cross between Enterprise and Honeycrisp, has dark red skin and a crisp, light texture. It also has good eating quality and long storage life.
Evans invited attendees at the Washington State Horticultural Association’s annual meeting, Dec. 3-5, in Yakima, Wash., to sample and critique WA 2, WA 38 and a couple other promising varieties.
“This is the biggest opportunity I have to talk to the industry to get more kinds of feedback,” she said.
She also works with Carolyn Ross, an associate professor in the WSU school of food science, Pullman, who conducts taste tests with consumers and a trained sensory panel.
In addition, Evans said an industry advisory committee provides input into new variety development every step of the way.