'Washington Grower' features Cosmic Crisp on TV

An episode of TV’s "Washington Grown" series featuring Washington apples is scheduled to air this weekend.

The Washington Apple Commission, with the help of production company North By Northwest, created segments for the show, according to a news release.

"Washington Grown" showcases agricultural products from the state and shows “behind the scenes” footage of growing and production, the release said, as well as visits to local restaurants. The show is in its fifth season.

The episode includes a visit to Legacy Orchard and an explanation of the pollination process, according to a news release.

It will also feature a talk with Cosmic Crisp apple variety breeder Bruce Barritt and a history lesson with a visit to the Wenatchee Valley Museum and Cultural Center.

The show ends with a visit to the Wenatchee Apple Blossom Festival, with an interview with the Apple Blossom queen.

The episode airs 5 p.m. Pacific Saturday on KIMA, 2:30 p.m. Sunday on KOMO4 and 7 p.m. Sunday streaming live from "Washington Grown’s" Facebook page.

On Oct. 23, the video will be available on YouTube.

Article by Jessica MacCallum, The Packer

Washington apple harvest half-way finished

Autumn has finally arrived in Eastern Washington, bringing with it the cool nights that create the spectacular apples that Washington is known for. Dave Gleason, Chief Horticulturist, boasts about Washington’s weather, with 300 days of sunshine, an arid climate, and less than seven inches of annual rain in the Central Washington.

Cosmic Crisp replaces Gala

As the seasons change, Superfresh Growers® transitions older orchard blocks to new varieties. Superfresh Growers is currently tearing out an older Gala orchard, and replacing it with a high density Cosmic Crisp orchard. “We know the science of growing the best quality fruit, now we are moving to efficiency with high density orchards,” explains Gleason. This process includes turning over the soil and adding compost, enhancing soil conditions. The new high-density orchard will be designed with a trellis system with technology in mind: both platforms, which are currently used, and robotic systems of the (not so distant) future. 

360 million apples picked per day

Parker Sherrell, Pre-Production Manager, and newest member to the Superfresh farm team, joins Gleason to discuss how massive the Washington State apple harvest is. On a peak harvest day in Washington State there are roughly 30,000 pickers, each picking an average of six 850 pound apple bins. Sherrell shares that this equates to 360 million apples, which is enough apples to create a continuous line from Seattle to Shanghai, back to Seattle, and back to Shanghai. In other words, Washington State harvests about 17,000 miles of apples a day. 

“We are about 50 percent done with apple harvest in Washington. It takes an incredible amount of hard work to get these apples off. We are so grateful to have the people we do have helping us. There is a lot of work that remains, and everyone is in positive spirits,” said Sherrell. 

Cooler spring weather manifested smaller than normal apples. Apples are peaking three to four sizes smaller than last year, making this an excellent year to promote bagged fruit. Superfresh Growers has a full line of organic and conventional pouch bags ready to support retailers this season, as well as mesh, poly, and tote bag options. 

Gala harvest has concluded

Superfresh Growers is half-way finished with harvest. Galas have concluded, and the Superfresh team is moving on to Golden Delicious, Red Delicious, Fuji, Granny Smith, Pink Lady® and Autumn Glory® apples. Autumn Glory harvest will double in volume this year, providing a crop that will continue to build its national presence.

Article by Pamela Riemenschneider, Produce Retailer

Growers get latest Cosmic Crisp horticultural tips

Stefano Mussachi, WSU tree fruit physiologist, shows growers a Cosmic Crisp apple tree in spindle tree style at the WSU Sunrise Research Orchard near Rock Island, Wash., in spring of 2016. Growers are keen on learning horticultural aspects of what the industry hopes will be a great new variety. (Photo by Dan Wheat, Capital Press).

Stefano Mussachi, WSU tree fruit physiologist, shows growers a Cosmic Crisp apple tree in spindle tree style at the WSU Sunrise Research Orchard near Rock Island, Wash., in spring of 2016. Growers are keen on learning horticultural aspects of what the industry hopes will be a great new variety. (Photo by Dan Wheat, Capital Press).

Washington State University tree fruit researchers shared their latest perspectives on how to grow the new Cosmic Crisp apple variety with growers at a recent field day south of Wenatchee.

ROCK ISLAND, Wash. — Mechanical pruning works well on Cosmic Crisp apple trees by the fourth year and cutting the tips of one-year old limbs controls growth better than limb bending.

Those were main points growers learned at a Washington State University field day at Sunrise Research Orchard south of Rock Island, Sept. 27.

Cosmic Crisp is the new WSU-bred apple tree the industry is starting to plant in a big way with plans for the first apples to hit grocery stores in the fall of 2019 and quickly ramp up thereafter.

Promoters say cosmic Crisp is a great eating apple with great flavor and good crispness and firmness that consumers will love more than Honeycrisp, one of its parents. It stores well without storage disorders such as water core, internal browning and superficial scald that hampers other varieties.

Perhaps it’s only negative is vigorous growth causing too much spacing between fruit, called blind wood, resulting in fruit on outer edges rather than closer to tree trunks where desired.

Stefano Musacchi, WSU tree fruit physiologist, “now believes that’s better controlled by cutting the tips of one-year-old limbs and cutting tips in subsequent years rather than by bending limbs down,” said Karen Lewis, WSU Extension tree fruit specialist. Musacchi calls it click pruning. Bending limbs down actually creates more blind wood, according to a tip sheet the scientists wrote for growers.

Apple trees produce the plant growth regulator auxin in their stems and shoot tips inhibiting bud formation. Cutting limb tips or girdling or notching every foot of a trunk on two-year-old trees interrupts auxin flow allowing more buds to form where desired.

The tip sheet gave equal credence to spindle and biaxial (two trunks off a one) tree structure for good fruit coloring and automation and mechanization of pruning and harvest while European V is more problematic for mechanized pruning and harvest.

“At the end of the day, Cosmic Crisp responds well whether vertical or angle (V),” Lewis said. “Growers need to put the math to it (what’s profitable) and their ability. They’ll do what they know.”

Musacchi is now experimenting with a fourth tree structure, what he calls top grafting which is grafting Cosmic Crisp onto stumps of other varieties above their rootstocks to develop three trunks, she said.

Lewis has focused a lot on mechanical pruning, also called hedging. Mechanical pruning in June eliminates blind wood by producing buds closer to stems and produces higher quality fruit, she said.

“We’ve also noticed that in the first couple of years when hedging the tree responds vigorously (more growth), but in the fourth year it settles down and gives you the tight narrow canopy you’re looking for,” she said. But it can result in smaller fruit which is something to consider, she said.

Article by Dan Wheat, Capital Press

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New apple brand developed at WSU to be available in 2019

PULLMAN, Wash. – Move over Granny Smith and Golden Delicious, there is a new apple in town.

The Cosmic Crisp apple is expected to be available for consumers by 2019.

This new brand of apple is a cross between Enterprise and Honeycrisp created by Washington State University’s Tree fruit breeding program.

According to WSU, the fruit has a rich red-purple color over a green-yellow background and is speckled with little spots. WSU tree fruit experts said the apples will flavor profile will provide ample sweetness and tartness.

WSU made 300,000 trees available to growers this year. The growers were chosen through a drawing, according to WSU. Other growers will be able to buy trees from Washington State fruit tree nurseries for delivery in 2018 and 2019.

Article by Krem 2 News

Red delicious on the decline

WENATCHEE, Wash. — Red delicious will soon lose its status as the volume leader in the Washington apple industry.

The variety will comprise 25% of the 2017-18 crop, down about 5% from recent years, according to an estimate by the Washington State Tree Fruit Association, and numerous grower-shippers said they continue to move away from the classic apple.

Gala, estimated to account for 23% of the new crop, is on track to surpass red delicious this season or next.

“The popularity of reds has declined because we’re growing all these new varieties and they’re better-tasting,” said Randy Steensma, president of Honey Bear Fruit Co. “They don’t look as good as a red ... but these other apples have better eating characteristics.”

Alternatively, companies have been planting proprietary varieties or improved versions of varieties such as gala, fuji and Honeycrisp.

Many are also investing in growing Cosmic Crisp, an apple developed by the Washington State University breeding program.

More than 600,000 trees were planted this year, and about 5.5 million more will go in the ground next year.

“A number of our growers have been looking for a variety that will come into their harvest portfolio and take the same time slot as red delicious, which they’re trying to phase out a little, and this apple picks at about the same time as reds,” said Kate Evans, associate professor with the Washington State University Tree Fruit Research & Extension Center.

“My impression has been that a number of growers have sort of jumped on it really because it fits that harvest window for them,” Evans said.

Bill Knight, domestic sales manager for Northern Fruit Co., said the company is growing fewer reds even though it ships much of its fruit to markets where the variety is still desirable.

“That’s kept the red thing alive for us longer than maybe some other people,” Knight said. “We export a lot to China and Asia ... and those people fortunately still like to eat reds, so we’re still maybe a little heavier there than some people, but we’re slowly slimming down.”

Meeting consumer demand for better varieties has prompted the shift away from reds, but a parallel motivator has been the profit available.

“Where the grower’s not getting very much in terms of dollar per box, it becomes a very fine line as to whether the grower’s actually making any money from growing that variety anymore,” Evans said. “That’s a huge impact in terms of the grower decision.

“If there’s still a market for it, then they’ll grow it, if they can get a decent return,” Evans said. “It costs the grower considerably to change varieties, so they’re not going to make those decisions lightly.”

Article by Ashley Nickle, The Packer

All Eyes on Washington

New apple varieties are expected to offer exceptional flavor and heightened consumer appeal.

Every year consumers eagerly await the arrival of a new crop of Washington apples. The latest developments in apple varieties are given a kick-start on promotions in the early fall when Washington state begins harvesting. Indeed, it seems the future trends for new varieties to out west.

"Consumers are initially attracted to their bright, bold coloring and unique names," says Chuck Sinks, president of sales and marketing for Sage Fruit Company in Yakima, WA. "But what keeps them coming back in their appreciation for a sweet, juicy, and crunchy apple."

In fact, what also keeps apple lovers coming back is a combination of great fruit, abundant variety, and savvy marketing and merchandising. Maintaining that formula remains key to continued strong sales.

Varieties

The large number and superior quality of Washington varieties are sure to keep sales brisk.

"Our packers are developing proprietary varieties (PVs) at break-neck speeds," says Todd Fryhover, president of the Washington Apple Commission in in Wenatchee, WA. "But for the industry, Cosmic Crisp is the next big thing for all Washington apple growers' Honeycrisp continues expansion as well."

Article by Howard Riell, Produce Business

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Since 1972, Blind Renaissance has an extensive history of creating the strong visual identity and cohesive media presence demanded by the sophistication of marketing environments. We design engaging, client-specific promotional materials by combining an educated artistic sensibility, knowledge of advertising trends in multiple industries and the ability to appropriately utilize new design, web and printing technology.

What to look forward to at Asia Fruit Logistica

Tomorrow sees the start of Asia Fruit Logistica, running 6-8 September in Hong Kong. It will take place at the AsiaWorld-Expo, where sales of exhibition space are up by 25 per cent on last year’s total. This year for the first time the exhibition will be held over two different halls.

There has been a big increase in the number of Chinese exhibitors this time around: according to the organisers by as much as 90 per cent compared with last year. 

Beijing-based fresh produce e-commerce company, MissFresh, is one of the new Chinese exhibitors at this year’s show. MissFresh has set up a cold chain logistics system to deliver fresh food to consumers’ doors within two hours as speed of delivery and high quality are paramount

“We’ll be showcasing our pre-warehouse model at Asia Fruit Logistica,” explains MissFresh head of marketing Zhang Yao. 

Australia will be launching the new Taste Australia campaign in Hong Kong, hailed as the biggest ever trade push in Australian horticulture’s history, with an ambitious plan to significantly grow exports by 2025, complementing an investment of more than $10.5M into trade activities over the next year. That will kick off a six-month tour of trade show events in Dubai, Beijing, Shanghai and Tokyo.

Tasmania will be promoting its vegetables as well as fruit for the first time. "The vegetable growers are coming to promote Tasmanian vegetables which are every bit as good as our Tasmanian fruit, but we have just not promoted them in past," explains Phil Pyke, Business Development Manager at Fruit Growers Tasmania. "We already export to many different markets: for example, lettuce goes to China, carrots and onions are predominately exported across Asia. These are the main markets, but we are looking at where niche markets could come into play as well."

As always there will a number of companies present from New Zealand to promote the country's top quality fruit. Te Mata will be there with some new apples varieties. "We have the Dazzle, Aztec and Cosmic Crisp," explains Murray Tait from the company. 

South Africa will have strong representation at the trade fair as they look to open the Chinese market for more products.

After success in 2016 Premium European Kiwi will be back again to promote European kiwifruit in the Chinese, Canadian and United Arab Emirates markets 

Four Greek kiwifruit-producing organisations are behind the campaign: Agricultural Cooperative of Chrisochori (Nespar), Agricultural Association Nestos, Alkyon and Goustera.

A total of 27 companies from the main Ukrainian regions producing fruit and berries will participate in the exhibition. About 40 varieties of apples, cherries, strawberries, raspberries, currants and blueberries, as well as dried and frozen berries, are available from the Ukraine.

Article by Nichola Watson, FreshPlaza.com

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Since 1972, Blind Renaissance has an extensive history of creating the strong visual identity and cohesive media presence demanded by the sophistication of marketing environments. We design engaging, client-specific promotional materials by combining an educated artistic sensibility, knowledge of advertising trends in multiple industries and the ability to appropriately utilize new design, web and printing technology.

New apple varieties set the stage for strong season in Washington

Washington apple growers and shippers continue to diversify and adjust their plantings to meet the growing demand for Honeycrisp, Fuji, Gala and the highly anticipated Cosmic Crisp variety. 

In addition, growers continue to incorporate new “club” or trademarked apple varieties into their crop mix.

Randy Hartmann, president of Pacificpro, based in Bellevue, WA, noted this has resulted in some great, well received and delicious new apple varieties to the marketplace and allowed individual growers and shippers to market a unique product to their customers and the end consumer. 

“With the public’s increasing focus on healthy diets and lifestyles, we are seeing continual growth in the sector as a whole and specifically in the organic category on all varieties,” he said. “As an industry and a company, we continue to focus on items that are important to our customers like overall quality, food safety, traceability and inventory management.”

Craig Hartmann, Randy Hartmann and Marcus Hartmann of Pacificpro

Craig Hartmann, Randy Hartmann and Marcus Hartmann of Pacificpro

Pacificpro procures and ships the entire Washington state apple manifest, including all organics and many club varieties to its wholesale, foodservice and retail customers in all regions of the United States.

Article by Keith Loria, The Produce News

Large apple crop, higher returns predicted

A year ago, Reds were forecast at 33.7 million but ended up being 4.5 million boxes more, which surprised people because they were pulling out Reds, he said. Larger fruit size increased volume but also a lot of small growers, not selected by companies to grow managed varieties, are stuck with Reds and poor returns until the new Cosmic Crisp takes off, he said.

The average wholesale price of standard grade, medium size Reds has been $11 to $14.90 per box for at least three months, down $5 on the low end and $4 on the high end since January, according to USDA tracking.

The tough thing for the start of the new season is that there’s still 5.5 million boxes of Reds left to sell from the 2016 season, O’Rourke said. It may hamper marketers’ ability to get premium prices at the start of the new season, he said.

“The cleanup on the other varieties is good, including Gala. But that’s a lot of Reds. Whether you give them away, I don’t know. We might be able to get more into India if competing suppliers like South Africa or Australia are late into market with new crop,” O’Rourke said. Mexico may take more since its crop is down, he said. Reds are needed for exports since managed varieties are too expensive for foreign importers, he said.

The jury is still out on whether there will be a lot more Reds than forecast again this year, Evans said. Reds are forecast at 24 percent of the crop and need to be 20 percent to get better prices, he said.

Braeburn and Jonagold are forecast at half their volumes of three years ago. Cameo is close to the same. Acreage of all three is lessening and they will pretty much be gone in a few years with the advent of Cosmic Crisp, O’Rourke said.

Article by Dan Wheat, Capital Press

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Blind Renaissance

Since 1972, Blind Renaissance has an extensive history of creating the strong visual identity and cohesive media presence demanded by the sophistication of marketing environments. We design engaging, client-specific promotional materials by combining an educated artistic sensibility, knowledge of advertising trends in multiple industries and the ability to appropriately utilize new design, web and printing technology.

WASHINGTON APPLE INDUSTRY SEES RISE IN ORGANICS AND A NEW VARIETY

Washington state is positioned to be the leader in organic apples for 2017. Lindsey Huber, international marketing specialist with the Washington Apple Commission, based in Wenatchee, WA, said production is on the rise and may make up as much as 15 percent of total crop volume.

“The 2016-17 season wrapped up at approximately 10.8 million bushels of organic apples, and the Aug. 1 estimate forecasted 13 million cartons for the 2017-18 season,” she said. “Washington’s climate positions growers to take advantage of organic horticultural practices matching the increasing consumer demand for organic products. Expectations are for continued organic apple expansion into the future.”

The Washington apple industry also recently saw the first plantings of the newest Washington variety, the Cosmic Crisp, go in the ground this past spring. This variety was bred by the Washington State University Tree Fruit Research Commission, and will be available to all growers in the state.

“Our industry is very excited about this apple, as it’s the first generic (meaning, not a proprietary variety that is controlled by a single marketing organization) variety we’ve had for some time,” Huber said. “Our state will have a 10-year exclusivity on the variety, which gives us time to create a strong consumer link between Washington state and Cosmic Crisp.”

With Cosmic Crisp joining the Washington apple collection, consumers can expect to see fruit in stores as early as 2019.

“In addition, the number of club varieties is increasing, which means consumers will have an even wider range of tastes and textures available,” Huber said.

Article by Keith Loria, The Produce News

WSU WA 38 Field Day

Join WSU for a fall field day discussing horticulture and tips to optimize fruit quality of WA 38, WSU’s newest breeding program release. With more than 637,224 WA 38 trees in the ground already, WSU and the Washington Tree Fruit Research Commission are working hard to provide growers with the information they need to choose training systems, pruning systems, rootstocks, pollinizers, and management techniques for high quality fruit.

WA 38 Tips to Optimize Fruit Quality

September 27, 2017 @ 3:00 to 4:30 pm

WSU Sunrise Orchard, Rock Island WA

The focus of this field visit is management tips for consistently superior fruit quality. Stefano Musacchi, WSU Professor of Horticulture will demonstrate a new top grafting trial and discuss how horticulture systems impact pack out. Ines Hanrahan, Washington Tree Fruit Research Commission, will describe tips to achieve high pack outs, including how to determine optimal harvest dates, pluses and minuses of one versus two picks, and the utility of pre-harvest fungicide applications. Karen Lewis, WSU Extension will show ways to incorporate mechanization, such as hedging, in WA 38 management.

  • See the impacts of pruning, hedging and training strategies on fruit quality.
  • Learn how to use the new WA 38 starch scale.
  • Discuss management for high pack outs.
  • Taste WA 38 fruit.
  • See mechanical pruning tools.

Please note the Sept 6 field day in Prosser had to be canceled due to the later season. Fruit is not near enough to maturity for discussion.
 

Directions

WSU Sunrise Orchard, off highway 28 on Sunrise Lane, about 11 miles south of Wenatchee.

Red Delicious Apple Losing Its Appeal In Favor Of Jazzy Newcomers Like Cosmic Crisp

"Another exciting replacement," Myers says, "could be the Cosmic Crisp, developed by Washington State University." Research programs at land-grant universities like WSU do the breeding and testing, then license the seeds to private growers. Royalties fund future research programs, as well as student and academic amenities.

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TE MATA IN HONG KONG WITH NEW APPLE VARIETIES

New Zealand exporter, Te Mata Exports have been attending Asia Fruit Logistica since its inception. The main reason for exhibiting at the event is to meet their existing clients and, of course meet some new ones.

"We are well established in the main Asian and Indian & Middle Eastern markets," explained Murray Tait from the company. "Now we want to broaden our efforts into smaller, but growing marketssuch as Sri Lanka, Korea, the Philippines, the Maldives, and Indonesia."

The company's main products are apples, avocados, cherries and citrus.

"We will be talking to our customers about some of our new apple varieties in Hong Kong. We have the Dazzle, Aztec and Cosmic Crisp, among others in our planting programme. We are moving over to these new varieties as we remove some of the older trees and less preferred varieties.   

"We are also expanding our cherry production, so we are looking to extend our market reach. We are already active in Taiwan, China and Thailand, but are looking further afield at markets such as Korea, Japan and SE Asia." 

As with other New Zealand avocado growers, Murray is anticipating the entry of home grown avocados into China, "It may not be this year, we don't have the volumes anyway," said Murray. "We already have well established relationships with importers/partners in place, who would also take our avocados when the time comes.

Article by Nichola Watson, FreshPlaza.com

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Since 1972, Blind Renaissance has an extensive history of creating the strong visual identity and cohesive media presence demanded by the sophistication of marketing environments. We design engaging, client-specific promotional materials by combining an educated artistic sensibility, knowledge of advertising trends in multiple industries and the ability to appropriately utilize new design, web and printing technology.

"A Red Apple that is Ultracrisp"

The odds of an apple making it from the testing stage to the grocery shelf are extremely long. There are perhaps 5,000 to 7,000 apple varieties in the world today, but only about 30 to 40 are commercially grown worldwide and slightly fewer in Washington state. Apples are evaluated on taste, appearance, storability, cost, how quickly they rot, and ease of growing. 

Despite the long odds of making it, there is one apple Evans has been working on that she’s super excited about.

“I have to talk about the new Cosmic Crisp. I mean, Cosmic Crisp is typically a red apple that is ultracrisp,” she explains.

The new apple is a cross between a Honeycrisp and an Enterprise. It’ll be commercially available in the US within two or three years, and Washington growers are betting that it’ll be a winner — they’ve planted 600,000 Cosmic Crisp trees this year and Evans expects some 5 million more trees to go in the ground next season.

So while the Cosmic Crisp could wow us in the West, who knows how Chinese consumers will react to the new shape and color. Ultimately, that will partially guide business, and growing, decisions in Washington state.

Article by Jason Margolis, Kuow.org

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Blind Renaissance

Since 1972, Blind Renaissance has an extensive history of creating the strong visual identity and cohesive media presence demanded by the sophistication of marketing environments. We design engaging, client-specific promotional materials by combining an educated artistic sensibility, knowledge of advertising trends in multiple industries and the ability to appropriately utilize new design, web and printing technology.

The Biggest Need for the Produce Industry Is...

Returning recently from the Forbes AgTech Summit, the workshops made me think about innovations and how those developments will shape the future of the produce industry. Automation in the field, new hybrid electric technology for trucks, the Internet of things and more are coming our way.

In that vein, I wanted to check in with members of the LinkedIn Fresh Produce Industry Discussion Group about their thoughts concerning the “biggest need” for the industry going forward. 


What is the biggest need for the agriculture industry in the next ten years? What invention/innovation is necessary for the industry to thrive in the years ahead?

Alan: Being smarter marketers. In the apple industry, instead of just throwing new varieties onto the market, following the model established by Cosmic Crisp looks like a good choice. This involves the industry working together, consumer research, and assistance from Washington State University.

Phil: Green housing and organic

Gary: Food safety professionals

Joe: Alternative labor technologies, mechanization

Mulugheta: I think there is a need to shift from the conventional systems towards agroecological organic systems , low input or environmental friendly production and management or handling systems based on principles and practices would be a better option. Anything invested on this field would be attractive for industries in the next couple of years

Gregory: I suspect that advancements in renewable energy, battery technology and drone tech will play a big role in organic farming in terms of drone imaging for detecting plant stress, micro-drones for pest control and pollination and pruning/harvesting drones. I’m not certain how much disruption will occur in the next ten years, that will be determined by people far more tech savvy then I. 

In terms of indoor growing, I would think that some of the “ROBOFARMS” being built in Japan by “Spread”are going to become more common as well.

Eric: Extending harvested product shelf life , through new packaging innovation

Ray: I believe that for producers located in the state of California; especially smaller operations, it will be trying to figure out how to stay in business. The minimum wage hike that will lead to $15.00 per hour in 2022 is just now showing impact with just $.50 per hour increase this year and last. Will FOB’s rise 40% over the next four or five years without a dramatic decrease in supply? Maybe, but when in history has that ever happened? Will this lead to innovation in harvest, and distribution? No doubt, but at what cost? This minimum wage increase is the biggest story in the U.S. produce industry no one is talking about. Amazing, because it will impact every consumer in the nation.

Karen: Immigration reform, so that we can get the produce harvested

Rob: We need more prove about the health benefit of vegetables. We need it structured and we need to have real official claims.

World consumption per person has never been so low and the chronic diseases have never been so high. Vegetables should be recommended over pills. We run in the Netherlands a project called Reverse Diabetes2. Many patients can stop using their medication when they switch their food pattern to mainly.......... vegetables!

So it is not the storage, the labor or the growing technique, it is about creating legitimate demand.

TK: Kudos to the many who commented and please add your thoughts and “likes” to comments already posted. My first instinct is to look at farm mechanization-automation/labor as the industry’s biggest need, but Rob’s comment about building demand is a point that cannot be overlooked.

Article by Tom Karst, The Packer

Cosmic Crisp™ apple hoping to be out of this world

It takes years to develop a new variety. Cosmic Crisp – the newest apple variety – was 20 years in the making and began at Washington State University under an experimental fruit-breeding program. It’s anticipated to edge out older fruit, such as the outdated red delicious. It’s a naturally bred variety, a cross between Enterprise and Honeycrisp. “We like to think that it took the best qualities of both apples,” explained Kathryn Grandy, director of marketing for Proprietary Variety Management. PVM was brought on to provide its experience in research and development, consumer focus and brand development for the Cosmic Crisp.

Huge interest from growers

In 2014 there were so many growers interested in taking this new fruit on, WSU had to choose through a draw system to make their choices more fair. 2017 is the first year of planting. Somewhere around 600,000+ trees were planted. For next year, Grandy says, there are about 5.5 million trees on order, which is almost the maximum number of trees they’re able to provide. “We anticipate the same going into 2019 as well.” Tree orders for 2019 already number in the millions.

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Washington variety exclusive

It will remain a Washington exclusive for the next decade at least. “Growers have been generous in supporting the efforts of WSU and the breeding program. In return they’re given a 10-year exclusive deal to grow the apple,” said Grandy. There are plans, however to do some smaller globalization of the apple in the future years in other growing regions of the world. “But, it’s going to be a very strong Washington apple,” she stated. 35 growers within the state received trees this year. Some have chosen to plant on new ground, some are using existing acreage.

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Commercial volume in 2019

The first commercial availability will be in the fall season of 2019, which will be the third leaf on the trees being planted this year. There will be much more volume anticipated in 2020 because of the subsequently planted trees next year. “It will really continue to ramp up after that,” said Grandy. Washington growers will be exporting to Canada, Mexico and Asia.

Meets consumer's changing tastes

This will impact sales of other varieties, what with consumer tastes changing. “Red Delicious was at one time one of the most popular but consumers are looking for sweet, crunchy and crisp.” With the volume available and only continuing to ramp up with commercial availability, Grandy says she has a feeling it may affect other varieties.  “It’s sweet, tart, crispy, and juicy. It has a wonderful flavor.” The name itself was chosen by consumers through focus group testing to get feedback on the apple’s appearance, flavor and characteristics. 

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Excellent storing apple

She says it also stores amazingly well. “Its storability and volume should make it a 12-month a year apple. Some apples taste good but don’t store as well; they become flavorless or less juicy and mealy. This variety has proven it stores extremely well for the full season.”

Article by Rebecca Dumais, Fresh Plaza

Apple industry readies itself for the big thing called Cosmic Crisp™

Planting surge of highly hyped Cosmic Crisp is likely to test growers, packers, marketers — and consumers.

Raphael Sisneros Garcia prepares to plant Cosmic Crisp apple trees in April in what was a Grandview, Washington, vineyard. The new variety, bred and released by Washington State University, is being planted for the first time commercially this year. Photo by TJ Mullinax, Good Fruit Grower.

Raphael Sisneros Garcia prepares to plant Cosmic Crisp apple trees in April in what was a Grandview, Washington, vineyard. The new variety, bred and released by Washington State University, is being planted for the first time commercially this year. Photo by TJ Mullinax, Good Fruit Grower.

Washington’s apple industry enters a new world this year as growers plant the first of what, in just three short years, will be 11 million trees or more of the popular new variety, Cosmic Crisp.

If all goes as planned, production from those trees will eclipse the total U.S. production of all but the top half-dozen or so apple varieties by 2022.

Rome and Empire? Both are likely to find themselves in Cosmic Crisp’s rearview mirror.

What about Honeycrisp? Growers might abandon their finicky friend if all they hear about Cosmic Crisp — it’s easier to grow and stores well — is true.

And those longstanding varieties that have powered the industry for years, Reds and Goldens? They’re likely to see continued declines in market share as annual Cosmic Crisp production increases.

Of course, that’s if all goes as planned.

Despite years of breeding efforts, test plantings and market research, there are no guarantees for growers considering an investment of $40,000 to $50,000 per acre to plant Cosmic Crisp.

For starters, there is always the weather; Mother Nature has a way of humbling experts. But there’s also fierce competition for produce shelf space from an increasing number of varieties and products.

Washington growers may dominate U.S. apple production, but they are bit players on the world stage; even though they produce 60 percent of the U.S. crop, U.S. growers overall account for just 3 percent of global production.

A future block of Cosmic Crisp is being prepared in Zillah, Washington, in May for some of the first commercially available trees to growers in the state. Some 11 million trees are expected to be in the ground in the next three years, making Cosmic Crisp the largest introduction of any apple variety to market in history. This block was days from planting, with Felix Schuhmann marking tree locations with fertilizer and trenching for irrigation lines. Photo by TJ Millinax, Good Fruit Grower.

A future block of Cosmic Crisp is being prepared in Zillah, Washington, in May for some of the first commercially available trees to growers in the state. Some 11 million trees are expected to be in the ground in the next three years, making Cosmic Crisp the largest introduction of any apple variety to market in history. This block was days from planting, with Felix Schuhmann marking tree locations with fertilizer and trenching for irrigation lines. Photo by TJ Millinax, Good Fruit Grower.

The risks are significant, and the pressure’s on. Cosmic Crisp, a Washington State University-bred cross between Enterprise and Honeycrisp, isn’t just a new apple. It’s unique in several ways: No other new apple has had to be an immediate hit with consumers, at a high enough price, right out of the gate.

It’s often helpful to look at history to predict the future. It’s not as easy with this apple. Asked to name a similar product for comparison, one agricultural economist said he couldn’t think of any.

Growers also don’t control the ficklest factor of all: consumers.

“If, in the first few years, we turn off a bunch of consumers, it’s going to be like trying to to restart a bowling ball rolling it uphill,” said Robert Kershaw, president of Domex Superfresh Growers, a fifth-generation grower in Washington’s Yakima Valley.

He leads an industry advisory committee tasked with developing marketing standards for the new apple.

World production of key varieties, such as Gala, may have ramped up in their early years, he said, but never with a club variety and never just in Washington.

“This is a gamble. It’s not a sure thing. I’m personally shocked by how many trees are going in,” Kershaw said. “It’s just scary when you look at it from Washington’s perspective.” But, he stressed, it’s all about the consumer. “We’ll do everything we can on marketing and branding and everything else, but at the end of the day, the consumer will decide if they like it or not.”

Marketing comparisons shouldn’t be limited just to produce or even agricultural products, said Lynnell Brandt, president of Proprietary Variety Management, the company contracted by WSU to manage the variety, including licenses and marketing.

Rollouts in other food service industries can also serve as a guide, he said.

“What we hope to do is minimize the risk by, number one, having a wow, exciting apple, but also to have the industry as a whole representing it. That’s not been done before. But I think the possibilities are very large and exciting.”
 

In it together

So far, the industry is buying into the idea of a united front. In April, members of the marketing advisory group, which includes participation from packers and marketers who handle between 80 and 90 percent of the state’s production, agreed that Cosmic Crisp would be the primary brand for the apple, followed by Washington Apples, the label of the Washington Apple Commission.

The shippers themselves have agreed to remain almost invisible on any consumer packaging, an unheard-of position by the industry.

Jose Valencia covers a new Cosmic Crisp tree in a 13-acre block that was once a vineyard.  Photo by TJ Mullinax, Good Fruit Grower.

Jose Valencia covers a new Cosmic Crisp tree in a 13-acre block that was once a vineyard.  Photo by TJ Mullinax, Good Fruit Grower.

Kershaw acknowledged even he was opposed to the idea. “It went against what I wanted, but that’s OK, because we’re being guided by consensus. We’re doing what’s best for everyone, not just best for one,” he said.

Two years ago, Kershaw said, if he had asked the industry if such a move was possible, everybody would have said no.

“It’s never been done before. We’ve never had industry leaders working together like this before, on the same team. If anything is ever going to be a success, it’s going to be something like that, where everybody in the industry is rowing the boat in the same direction.”

Brandt credited the industry for uniting behind the apple. “If it’s all about the brand, then our ability collectively to promote it really gets amplified.”

Washington growers have a 10-year head start on Cosmic Crisp; international growers in a handful of countries that don’t ship to U.S. markets will be able to grow Cosmic Crisp sooner to protect the patent overseas, but growers elsewhere in the U.S. have to wait.

For that reason, it’s significant that the marketing committee is taking steps to protect the growers — something a united brand does, said Todd Fryhover, president of the Washington Apple Commission.

“It’s a wonderful deal. It goes back to recognizing that it’s the grower that needs to be protected and have this opportunity to have this exciting apple, both domestically and internationally,” he said. “I think it’s a great direction.”
 

Failure is not an option

So what are the potential fatal flaws in this venture? Across the board, industry leaders point to one: overproduction.

Too much juvenile fruit, too much big fruit, could pose a problem, Kershaw said.

“All apples grow big when they’re young. That’s going to be difficult the first few years of production, making sure the quality is representative of the brand,” he said. “If the quality is good, and we’re able to make sure we don’t put bad tasting fruit and poor quality into the consumer’s hands, it’ll be a success.”

Dale Goldy, co-owner of Gold Crown Nursery in Quincy, Washington, has similar concerns, given the ample size of production projected by just the third year.

“We’re going to have this huge ramp up and nobody is going to know about it,” he said. “We’re going to advertise the heck out of it, and we’re going to educate people, and it’ll be great once we have enough people who know about it. But what about those intervening years while we build the market? What does it look like, from a grower-return standpoint?”

Goldy likened the experience to Fuji, an apple that was phenomenally successful for growers in the 1990s, because they were growing it for the export market.

But those high prices led to overplanting, creating a sudden need for a domestic market among consumers unfamiliar with the apple variety, and prices low enough that growers started losing money, he said.

Eventually, the industry educated domestic consumers about Fuji, but the situation doesn’t have to recur, he said.

“Until that point, there was no focused effort to go out and create consumer awareness. That’s where I think this is different. That Fuji example is the reason we have to have the marketing committee, and the growers have to support it,” he said.

Almost all newer varieties have a honeymoon period as distribution ramps up, but it is only when they stop expanding geographically that the normal forces of demand kick in, said world market analyst Desmond O’Rourke, director of Belrose Inc.

Honeycrisp and Pink Lady, for example, are two varieties that appear to have maintained a price premium after they have been widely distributed.

Miguel Vazquez pulls new irrigation lines in April for one of the first commercial Cosmic Crisp apple blocks planted in Washington. Photo by TJ Mullinax, Good Fruit Grower.

Miguel Vazquez pulls new irrigation lines in April for one of the first commercial Cosmic Crisp apple blocks planted in Washington. Photo by TJ Mullinax, Good Fruit Grower.

“That suggests that consumer preferences are key to the sustainable expansion of a new variety,” he said. “There is no way to test that for Cosmic Crisp until it is widely distributed.”

Brandt of PVM also noted concerns about overproduction, but noted similarly that an important element in achieving success is “critical mass.”

“If you are going to have a true rollout, if you are really going to make a true presentation, you can’t just have a few boxes. You’ve got to have enough to try to penetrate enough stores as possible,” he said. “That requires a critical mass, or you can’t really present a global, new brand.”

Immediate impacts

Already, nurseries are seeing a decline in sales for varieties other than Cosmic Crisp across the board, though Honeycrisp sales appear to have taken the biggest hit early. Whether that will hold true in future years remains to be seen.

Cosmic Crisp tree sales also mean an immediate influx of cash to WSU’s breeding program for continued work to develop new varieties; 50 percent of the royalties, or half of the $1 license fee for each tree, goes to those efforts. Additional royalties apply to the packing and sale of each box of fruit.

That’s particularly important to Kershaw. Three years ago, frustrated that Washington growers were still relying so heavily on aging varieties and having to snag new varieties developed in other parts of the world, Kershaw told WSU officials they should be turning Washington into the Silicon Valley of apples.

“We should be pumping out the newest and best varieties that everybody else in the world wants,” he said. “I’m hoping this is just the beginning of a blueprint that will involve more teamwork with the industry, more R&D on new varieties, and that Washington will be known years down the road as not only the best place to grow fruit, but the best place to find new varieties.”

Article by Shannon Dininny, Good Fruit Grower

Should Cosmic Crisp have a “utility” grade?

Questions remain about color standards for new Washington State University variety.

Washington State University has spent two decades developing WA 38, now known as Cosmic Crisp. The first sizable commercial crop will be harvested in 2020. Photo by TJ Mullinax, Good Fruit Grower.

Washington State University has spent two decades developing WA 38, now known as Cosmic Crisp. The first sizable commercial crop will be harvested in 2020. Photo by TJ Mullinax, Good Fruit Grower.

When it comes to grading standards for the new Washington State University apple variety Cosmic Crisp, Washington’s industry is already charting new territory.

Usually, grade standards for varieties are set by state statute, with input from the industry. Once those standards are set, they can be changed, but with time and effort.

Instead for Cosmic Crisp, a grading subcommittee of the industry’s marketing advisory group is establishing grading standards to allow the industry to be more responsive and flexible and meet the changing needs of the market.

Grading standards will be key to ensuring consumers receive a high-quality piece of fruit each time, said subcommittee chairman Dave Allan of Allan Bros., a longtime growing family in Washington’s Yakima Valley.

Already, minimum color standards remain one area of debate. There likely will be two grades for color, but there’s debate over whether there should be a so-called “utility grade,” he said.

Those on one side of the argument believe selling a “utility” color grade could diminish the Cosmic Crisp brand early in the marketing push, while others believe that if people and markets are willing to buy it, why not service them, he said. “That’s really a fantastic debate. We don’t have an answer yet,” Allan said.

Most standards, such as for bruising or russeting, will likely remain the same as other varieties.

But the subcommittee is seeking some answers from researchers before deciding on final grade standards:

  • Should the industry be marketing apples from 2-year-old trees? Allan said the subcommittee wants researchers to make some recommendations about the quality of apples from young trees.
     
  • Should they set a minimum harvest maturity for shipment? The subcommittee is hoping researchers can provide information on what would be the best indicator — starch, soluble solids, background color — to ensure that consumers receive a good tasting apple from the first shipment of the season through the last.
     
  • What is the eating quality of apples at different color rates, say 60 percent, 40 percent and 20 percent color? That calls for a tasting panel. If eating quality is the same for all three color standards, great, Allan said. “But at 25 percent red, if two-thirds say, ‘That doesn’t taste good,’ we’ve got some good information to say we shouldn’t be marketing those apples because it doesn’t deliver the brand.”

The market is established on the retail shelf, Allan said, adding that he has high hopes. “I think it’s a good enough apple that it will become one of the major apples,” he said. “I’ve worked with quite a few new varieties, and I rate it up there pretty high.”

Article by Shannon Dininny, Good Fruit Grower.

Washington apple industry’s new super star

The Cosmic Crisp has all the makings of a super star and will replace Red Delicious and other varieties whose popularity has flagged in recent years.

Royalities from the Cosmic Crisp™ will help fund Washington State University programs such as apple breeding. Photo by Dan Wheat, Capital Press.

Royalities from the Cosmic Crisp™ will help fund Washington State University programs such as apple breeding. Photo by Dan Wheat, Capital Press.

The Washington state apple industry is re-inventing the way it does business. The industry is investing hundreds of millions of dollars in a radically different strategy for introducing a new variety of apple, the Cosmic Crisp.

A cross between the Enterprise and the Honeycrisp varieties, Cosmic Crisp is easier to grow and store than most other varieties. Most importantly, consumer focus groups have given it top ratings for taste and texture.

The Cosmic Crisp has all the makings of a super star and will replace Red Delicious and other varieties whose popularity has flagged in recent years.

Apple varieties typically take many years before they reach a critical mass. The Cosmic Crisp’s introduction will shift that process to fast-forward. This spring about 50 Washington growers chosen in a drawing planted 630,000 Cosmic Crisp trees. About 10 million more trees will go into the ground in the next two years.

In 2019 Cosmic Crisp will make its commercial debut with 200,000, 40-pound boxes. That will jump to 1.9 million boxes the next year, 5 million in 2021 and 9 million in 2022, marking the fastest ramp-up of a new apple variety in history.

Ultimately, industry leaders hope to sell 30 million boxes or more each year.

The main question that remains is price. Assuming consumers are willing to pay a premium price similar to what they pay for Honeycrisp, the new apple will become a success. But even at lower prices the Cosmic Crisp will be a boon to the industry.

The Cosmic Crisp is different because it was developed by Washington State University breeders. That allows WSU and the state’s apple industry to retain control of it and the royalties it generates.

The royalty is $1 for every tree sold and 4.75 percent of the price of every box that sells for more than $20. One-fifth of the royalty will go to commercializing and promoting the apple.

Most importantly, half of the royalty will go to WSU plant breeding programs, with most of that going to apple breeding. The remaining royalty will go to the WSU Office of Commercialization, the College of Agricultural, Human and Natural Resource Sciences and the breeders.

This investment in turn will establish a bigger pipeline for developing more new apple varieties in the future.

Our hope is the Cosmic Crisp will be a roaring success, but our further hope is that success will provide the resources that allow WSU’s plant breeders to develop important new varieties of apples and other crops.

One apple industry leader said the Cosmic Crisp could help Washington become “the Silicon Valley of apple breeding.”

That’s a bold statement, but it’s also one that’s achievable.

Article by Capital Press