WSU opens lottery on new apple variety
PULLMAN, Wash. — Growers may soon sign up for a lottery to determine who plants the first trees of a new Washington State University apple variety, much anticipated as a future favorite.
Known only by its research name, WA 38, the new apple should have a commercial name by the end of June when lottery winners are announced, said James Moyer, director of the Agricultural Research Center at WSU in Pullman.
“We’re getting close on a name,” he said. “We’re vetting a short list to make sure we have no infringement issues.”
The WA 38 was bred from Enterprise and Honeycrisp in 1997 by Bruce Barritt, now retired but who was then apple breeder at WSU Tree Fruit Research and Extension Center in Wenatchee. His successor, Katherine Evans, has said the WA 38 has many good attributes, including taste, texture and beauty that “has no equal in today’s marketplace.” It is said to have many qualities of the popular Honeycrisp but with fewer horticultural challenges.
“There’s a lot of inquiries, a lot of wanting to be in line and be considered,” said Lynnell Brandt, owner of Proprietary Variety Management, Yakima, chosen in December to help WSU manage the variety.
Growers like that it was bred in Washington, Brandt said.
“I think it has a lot of potential,” he said. “We want to make sure it’s coordinated so the industry as a whole has a good opportunity to have a good return.”
Most new varieties are managed by one company and grown only by it and its growers. WA 38 is the first new managed variety open to growing by any commercial grower in the state in some time, Brandt said. Eventually, it may be available to growers in other states, he said.
Growers may only apply online for the lottery at http://WA38.wsu.edu between April 1 and May 31. The website is active March 28.
Growers may learn more about the apple and the drawing at one of two WSU information sessions: 1:30 to 3:30 p.m., April 2 at the Confluence Technology Center in Wenatchee or 10 a.m. to noon, April 3 at the Hilton Garden Inn in Yakima.
Applicants will indicate if they want 3,000 to 5,000 trees or up to 20,000. Applicants will be assigned a number and a computer will randomly select 12 winners in June for the 3,000 to 5,000 category and 12 for the 20,000 category. Applicants will be notified if they won or lost, by June 30. Winners will have 30 days to sign a license agreement or forfeit their spot to someone else.
Nurseries will bud rootstock in August to begin growing trees. About 300,000 to 400,000 trees will be distributed to the lottery winners in the spring of 2017, but about 10 percent may be distributed in 2016. The lottery is being used for fair distribution of the first limited numbers but won’t be used in 2018 and thereafter.
The Northwest Nursery Improvement Institute, in Prosser, will manage propagation of the WA 38 by nurseries including Brandt’s Fruit Trees also owned by Brandt. There’s no conflict of interest because NNII set its own propagation rules, Brandt said.
Proprietary Variety Management will receive a percentage of WSU’s royalties for collecting royalties on the sales of trees and fruit and assisting in developing the commercial name and trademark protection. Details of PVM’s compensation have not been decided, Brandt said.
Phytelligence, a company providing guaranteed, true-to-type plants quickly using micro propagation and greenhouse processes, will be able to dramatically increase availability of the new variety, producing almost 1 million two-inch plants within a year, Amit Dhingra, WSU genomicist and owner of Phytelligence, has said.
Brandt said no decision has been made about Phytelligence’s involvement.