The Pacific Northwest Ag Network recently visited Prosser for the WA 64 Spring Field Tour. Here we spoke with Kate Evans, head of the WSU Apple Breeding Program; Manuela Mendoza, of Washington Tree Fruit Research Commission (currently in charge of phase three of the Apple Breeding Program); and Bernardita Sallato, a Tree Fruit Extension Specialist at Washington State University.


Kate Evans: The point of today was to give growers and anybody else who is interested an opportunity to come and look at trees of WA 64 and two different sites, two different ages, different rootstocks, different growing systems, really to get an idea of what that apple is like.

Manuela Mendoza: I focus on the older trees. I gave information about tree growth, fruit quality, and the storability of the fruit. This is a fantastic apple because you can store it for the long term, meaning 10-plus months in storage.

PNW Ag: You have samples today, correct?  How long have these been stored?

Manuela Mendoza: Yes - we have apples for people to test today, and they were stored for about 10 months in CA storage with no MCP treatment.


PNW Ag: I can say with the one sitting here in my hand, it looks phenomenal. Bernadita, what did you speak about today? 

Bernadita Sallato:  I have a demonstration site, it's like a test bed for the industry to come and take a look at different rootstocks and training systems. We are evaluating how the tree performs more than the fruit. Some are more dwarfing, like B.9s, and some are more vigorous, like the Geneva rootstocks. We train the trees as we feel it could look good for the cropping of the tree, but we also leave some trees untreated or unpruned so the growers can see how it behaves naturally. This variety is interesting, as so far we've seen that it's very gentle for cropping. It provides a lot of management opportunities because it has a lot of branching. We see it as an opportunity to treat the tree as you want in different treatments with your preference. A lot of the growers here in the south like the angle system trained to the wire because it provides a lot of color, a better color interception, and a lot of fruiting wood. It's very easy to prune. We try to share those conditions and characteristics of the tree in this different rootstock training system. The growers can see how the tree grows, evaluate things that are important for the horticulture side of things, and offer feedback. 

PNW Ag: What's the timeline on this? 

Kate Evans: There's a lot of work going on behind the scenes within the university and within our grower advisory group that's helping us determine how we move forward with this. A new variety release isn't a simple process. First of all, this apple needs a name. WA64 is not hugely catchy for the consumer in the supermarket. We ran this open competition. We had about 15,000 entries. Some of us have been wading through spreadsheets and we're honing down that number. We will be moving forward with that over the summer. So for all those folks who keep saying, when is there going to be a decision? Watch this space. I promise you it will be out there as soon as we know. There's no desperate hurry for this, though, because our first trees we're expecting for commercial planting trees won't be available until 2026. That means that for the consumer, the first fruit is not going to be available till 2029. When we talk about new varieties out into the marketplace, it always seems so long-term, but that's what it takes to grow trees.


Kate Evans: We've done consumer testing with this. This apple is a little more like Crips Pink. It has a sort of denser texture than a Honeycrisp. We hope it appeals to the consumer group that appreciates that firmer apple. We've we've had some really good feedback.

PNW Ag: Do you have more events like this going on?

Kate Evans: We have another event on Friday, June 21st, which is going to be our northern site in Central Washington. It will be at the WSU Sunrise Orchard, followed by a site in Quincy. That will be a sort of kind of a copycat of today, but at two different sites. We will do another couple of these in the same sites in in the middle of September on September 17th and September 19th. Check out the WSU Tree Fruit Extension site if you want more information.

WA 64 Spring Field Tour (South Central Washington)

The Pacific Northwest Ag Network recently visited Prosser for the WA 64 Spring Field Tour. Here are pictures from the event.

Gallery Credit: Pacific Northwest Ag Network

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