The progeny of Honeycrisp and Cripps Pink needs a name

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The progeny of Honeycrisp and Cripps Pink needs a name

How do you capture the Washington spirit and the international appeal of an apple in one name? That's the goal of Washington State University’s new quest to name its upcoming apple release, WA 64, the offspring of Honeycrisp and Cripps Pink. 

In an effort to find the perfect name, they recently opened the selection process to the public.

The apple, with pink blush coloring over a yellow background, will officially be released for commercial licensing this summer. WA 64, described as crisper and juicier than Cripps Pink, is projected to hit the shelves by 2029. 

WSU is also in the process of selecting partners to make the trees available to Washington growers. 

Picking the best fruits among 50,000 seedlings

The cross to create WA 64 happened in 1998. The fruit was then chosen for development for the fresh market thanks to its “outstanding eating and storage qualities.” The apple is said to maintain its texture after months in cold storage and doesn’t bruise or puncture as easily as other varieties. 

According to Kate Evans, professor and WSU apple breeder, the new fruit is the result of the university’s breeding program. 

“You choose two parents that you think have got the characteristics that combined might produce some fabulous offspring that have the best quality characteristics of both parents,” she explained. “And then you just take pollen from one of them and put it onto the sigmas of the flower of the other and in the case of apples, you wait six months to get the fruit.” 

Every seed is a mix of both parents, but Evans explains that every seed is different. The breeder’s job is growing the seeds and then doing a lot of evaluation to select the best apples. 

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“The breeder’s job is: we evaluate the seedlings, we choose the best individuals and then we might do a couple of rounds with vegetative propagation, clonal propagation,” Evans explained. “Then you can make more individuals from that one seedling, and then we can do more evaluations.” 

Evans explains that she has more than 50,000 seedling trees, but it’s her job and her team’s to go through a process of elimination. She says she looks at color, taste, texture, and other qualities before a selection can move to the next stage. 

WA 64’s number comes from the fact that it was the WSU breeding program’s 64th apple to move into the second phase of a three-phase selection process for new varieties. 

“Ultimately what you’re looking for is something that the consumer would enjoy,” she said. “People are drawn to different colors. Some people like super sweet apples, some people like super tart apples, some people like a mix of the two, and texture is massively important.”

Out of all the thousands of apples available, what made this variety special - besides its high eating quality, its pink hues and its flavor - is also its ability to maintain its quality after long periods of storage.

Finding the right name for WA 64

Jeremy Kent Tamsen, the Director of Innovation and Commercialization for WSU’s College of Agricultural, Human, and Natural Resource Sciences, said that they’ve received a lot of heartfelt submissions to name the new apple variety, but they’re being very meticulous about their final choice. 

“We want it to have a connection to the state of Washington, where this will be exclusively grown, and we also want it to be interesting and suitable for the global market,” Kent Tamsen explained.

They will also have a consumer focus group that will look at a final list of names to make sure they work in different languages and appeal to people of all backgrounds.

The WSU’s apple breeding program opened in 1994 to “develop new varieties suited to the unique climate of central Washington and that are available to Washington growers.” The goal is to produce apple varieties with an improved eating quality, texture, and storability. 

Some of the university’s former releases are the Cosmic Crisp WA38, released in 2019 and now among the top 10 best-selling U.S. apple varieties, and Sunrise Magic WA2, the first WSU apple variety release. 

Washington is the top U.S. producer of apples, with 90% of the nation’s organic crop production originating in the state. Apple exports saw an increase of 47% during this year’s first quarter compared to the previous year. The uptick was led mostly by Mexico, followed by Canada, Taiwan, and Vietnam. 

The online survey and contest to name WA 64 is open and entries will be accepted electronically until May 5, 2024. The contest is open to all U.S. residents age 18 and older. 

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