Pin It
Favorite

How Bout Them Apples? 

Scientists create a new fruit in Pullman

click to enlarge The WA 5 apple
  • The WA 5 apple

John K. Fellman held out a firm, bright, ruby-red apple: the WA 5.

“Yeah! Go ahead, take a bite. Tell me what you think,” says Fellman, professor of post-harvest physiology at Washington State University.

Fruit growers are being asked to test the university’s newest apple breed, which was released to growers this year through a partnership with the state’s Tree Fruit Research Commission.

The apple, which was designed to maintain its juice and firm texture through months of storage, is now in the orchards of eight different farmers across the state, according to Tom Auvil, a research horticulturalist at the commission.

“We’re learning together — WSU, the growers and the commission — how to make it work,” Auvil says.

The new apple is the latest collaboration between university researchers and the state’s growers. It’s the second apple released in the past two years.

This fall, apple and pear growers made headlines when they pledged to donate $27 million to the university’s fruit-tree researchers. The gift, which will be donated over the next eight years, will be collected by a $1-per-ton tax that the growers imposed on themselves. The donation will fund faculty chairs at the university, support research centers around the state, and create new positions to transfer information and technologies to growers in the field.

As the nation’s top apple producer, Washington state needs apples that store well in the off-season, so that growers will have a product to sell year-round, Fellman says. Growers interested in the newest variety obtain a sublicense to order five trees for $600. Those trees are then observed for several years to find out if the variety has a flaw or a distinct characteristic, Auvil says.

After this five-year step in the evaluation process, those growers may purchase more WA 5 trees for commercialization. Auvil says part of that is determining whether the taste and texture of the apple will fit the tastes of the market.

“The WA 5 has an astringency factor that people either really like or really don’t like,” says Auvil. “It appears to resemble a Granny Smith in the eating quality.”

The WA 5 has a distinctive reddish-orange tint with little russet on the skin. With acidity levels falling between a Gala and Braeburn, the WA 5 is most comparable to Honeycrisp, according to the WSU Apple Breeding Program’s analysis.

In 1994, Shawn Mehlenbacher, a horticulture professor at Oregon State University working on behalf of the WSU breeding program, crossed the genes of a Splendour apple and a Co-op 15.

“You take pollen from Co-op 15 trees and put it on splendor blooms,” says Bonnie Konishi, WSU’s agriculture research technician. “Then you can harvest the seeds. Each tree and seed is unique, just like people’s genes.”

The combination created seeds for trees bearing crispier and juicier apples than the previous WA 2 apple, released in 2009, according to Katherine Evans, the tree-fruit breeder at the WSU Tree Fruit Research and Extension Center in Wenatchee.

The researchers first planted a few trees in three different climates of Washington: a cold site just north of Chelan, a river valley in Wenatchee, and a warmer sandy area in Basin City.

“At one point, WA 5 was just one tree in a huge orchard,” says Konishi.

The apple has moved to four new sites throughout Washington for grower trials in Brewster, Mattawa, Prosser and Quincy.

“There were field days where other growers could come and take a look at what’s being grown,” Konishi says. “WA 5 kept attracting people because of its pinky red stripe over yellow. It also has a nice shape and Honeycrisp texture.”

Fellman said there are now enough WA 5 apples available to start conducting storage studies. They have several hundred pounds in storage for continued evaluation, and the fruit-tree commission is considering whether to send the trees to more growers.

“It’s a slow process,” Konishi says. “Now it’s really up to the momentum behind it.” 

This article was provided by Murrow News Service, which is produced by journalism students at the Edward R. Murrow College of Communication at Washington State University. 

  • Pin It

Speaking of...

Latest in News

  • Seven Ways Drought is Impacting the Inland Northwest
  • Seven Ways Drought is Impacting the Inland Northwest

    No, it's not as bad as in California, but drought is taking a hefty toll
    • Jul 29, 2015
  • Hopeless for Heroin
  • Hopeless for Heroin

    As heroin deaths continue to rise in Washington state, what can a parent do to save a child from the depths of addiction?
    • Jul 29, 2015
  • Call Mr. Yuk
  • Call Mr. Yuk

    Gov. Inslee avoids the "poison pill"; plus, pushing back against empty Kickstarter promises
    • Jul 29, 2015
  • More »

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

Today | Wed | Thu | Fri | Sat | Sun | Mon
Moscow ArtWalk 2015

Moscow ArtWalk 2015 @ Downtown Moscow

Tuesdays, Thursdays, Sundays. Continues through Aug. 31

All of today's events | Staff Picks

Most Commented On

  • Patrolling While Black

    Gordon Grant's nearly 30 years as a Spokane cop have been affected by race, but that's not the whole story
    • Jul 8, 2015
  • Hopeless for Heroin

    As heroin deaths continue to rise in Washington state, what can a parent do to save a child from the depths of addiction?
    • Jul 29, 2015
  • More »

Top Tags in
News & Comment

Comment


Briefs


marijuana


Publisher's Note


Community


© 2015 Inlander
Website powered by Foundation