Post-Cosmic Question: What’s next?

With launch of WA 38 underway, WSU’s apple breeding program hopes to build on successes.

Kate Evans, Washington State University’s pome fruit breeder, is surrounded by her “phase 0” seedlings growing in the WSU Tree Fruit Research & Extension Center in Wenatchee, Washington, greenhouses on Monday, April 23, 2018. Evans says even though the breeding program has been around for 24 years, it’s very young compared to other programs around the globe. With Cosmic Crisp a few years away from consumers, she admits there’s mounting pressure to build off its success. However, Evans says the small team makes do using repurposed, antiquated facilities and inadequate staff workspaces that hamper the program’s potential. For instance, this greenhouse and headhouse, once a USDA facility built over 60 years ago, has forced the staff to content with an ever growing list of non-research associated issues, from parts failures, rat invasions and potentially hazardous facility flaws. (Photo by TJ Mullinax,  Good Fruit Grower )

Kate Evans, Washington State University’s pome fruit breeder, is surrounded by her “phase 0” seedlings growing in the WSU Tree Fruit Research & Extension Center in Wenatchee, Washington, greenhouses on Monday, April 23, 2018. Evans says even though the breeding program has been around for 24 years, it’s very young compared to other programs around the globe. With Cosmic Crisp a few years away from consumers, she admits there’s mounting pressure to build off its success. However, Evans says the small team makes do using repurposed, antiquated facilities and inadequate staff workspaces that hamper the program’s potential. For instance, this greenhouse and headhouse, once a USDA facility built over 60 years ago, has forced the staff to content with an ever growing list of non-research associated issues, from parts failures, rat invasions and potentially hazardous facility flaws. (Photo by TJ Mullinax, Good Fruit Grower)

The well-hyped Cosmic Crisp is in the ground and on its way. So, what’s next?

The Washington State University apple breeding program, which released the variety, now stands at a crossroads. Breeder Kate Evans has more potential new varieties in the pipeline. Her greenhouse needs renovations. She wants help in her research orchard.

Meanwhile, though WA 38, to be marketed as Cosmic Crisp, is still a few years from store shelves, the university faces decisions about how to allocate royalties projected to reach millions.

The 24-year-old breeding program is young compared to its competitors around the world. Those of Cornell University and the University of Minnesota date back to the late 1800s. However, the apple industry expects Evans and her team to build off Cosmic’s success.

“Like any breeding program, I’m a firm believer that it should evolve,” Evans told growers in January at the Washington Tree Fruit Research Commission apple research review in Pasco. “The breeding program at WSU, any breeding program, evolves.”

She and the industry have some suggestions.

Facilities

For WSU breeding program staff, following in Cosmic Crisp’s success comes with potential pitfalls every day. Staff must navigate through narrow, rotting doorways, step over and around broken and cut concrete floors covered with makeshift steel plating and at worst scrap wood, just to successfully grow future apple varieties. (Photo by TJ Mullinax,  Good Fruit Grower )

For WSU breeding program staff, following in Cosmic Crisp’s success comes with potential pitfalls every day. Staff must navigate through narrow, rotting doorways, step over and around broken and cut concrete floors covered with makeshift steel plating and at worst scrap wood, just to successfully grow future apple varieties. (Photo by TJ Mullinax, Good Fruit Grower)

Evans seeks more labor to help maintain the Columbia View research orchard north of Wenatchee and more accurate DNA tests to help her genetically screen for a wider array of traits. But facilities’ improvement needs, also near the top of her wish list, may be the most obvious.

Evans and her staff at the Tree Fruit Research and Extension Center in Wenatchee share a greenhouse and storage with other programs.

The 60-year-old structure with missing floorboards and a stone for a door prop lets in mice and rats attracted to her tender seedlings.

A laminated handwritten sign implores visitors to keep out beans, grains and seeds. Her staff built rat-proof cages out of mesh screens that bolt onto raised wooden frames directly over the plants. So far, that seems to be working, Evans said.

Meanwhile, equipment failures, rust and overcrowding also get in the way of her team’s work, she said.

Upgrades are needed elsewhere at the Wenatchee research center, which has not seen additions since the 1970s. Laboratory space is at a premium. “I got a list of 51 items,” quipped one audience member at the research review.

Growers and researchers are lobbying for a master facilities plan for the research centers in Wenatchee and Prosser, both of which have programs involving tree fruit. The university is working toward one, but it won’t happen all at once, said Scot Hulbert, associate dean of research for WSU College of Agricultural, Human and Natural Resource Sciences, or CAHNRS.

Turnover and adding new hires at WSU take time. In May, Hulbert replaced Jim Moyer, who retired, while the agriculture college’s new dean, André-Denis Girard Wright, was scheduled to start June 1.

Dilapidated makeshift greenhouse benches, screws for holding down protective rat caging, irrigation parts storage… just one example of how the WSU Tree Fruit Research & Extension Center facility staff is making do with antiquated facilities and equipment. (Photo by TJ Mulinax,  Good Fruit Growe r)

Dilapidated makeshift greenhouse benches, screws for holding down protective rat caging, irrigation parts storage… just one example of how the WSU Tree Fruit Research & Extension Center facility staff is making do with antiquated facilities and equipment. (Photo by TJ Mulinax, Good Fruit Grower)

The university is in the process of hiring a postharvest physiologist and soil specialist for horticultural programs. Those faculty members will have needs for facilities and equipment just to start their jobs. “That’s got to happen now or very soon,” he said.

Like many universities, WSU has a backlog of deferred maintenance. The university has been assessing those needs across the entire campus since last year, said Kimi Lucas, CAHNRS director of operations.

This summer, the two fruit research centers will begin the creation of a long-term plan when an outside design team holds workshops with faculty and staff. Then comes finding a way to pay for the work, through a combination of university funds, grants, endowments, etc., she said.

Part of a recent $32 million endowment from the tree fruit industry, the largest in WSU history, is slated for facilities and research orchard improvements. However, the endowment won’t shoulder the whole burden, Lucas said.

“It would definitely not be only the endowment,” she said.

Changes in the past 10 years

The breeding program was created in 1994. Evans arrived in 2008, after Cosmic Crisp and yet-to-be released selections L and M were first crossed.

Since then, the apple industry has seen numerous changes. Managed varieties, usually in the form of clubs, are on the rise. Honeycrisp has set new expectations among consumers. Technology for DNA marker detection has improved.

Behind it all, Cosmic Crisp has created a new model for releasing apples that skirts the club method but also manages the variety.

Washington growers get exclusive North American rights to propagate and sell Cosmic for the first 10 years while the university contracted with Yakima, Washington-based Proprietary Variety Management, or PVM, to launch the apple commercially.

However, that doesn’t mean other varieties will follow the same path, Moyer said. The university has a cultivar licensing committee to help determine the rollout for each product.

He does not believe the university is required by law to put commercialization of a variety out to public bid, though that’s how PVM was hired for WA 38. “It depends on what the ask is,” Moyer said. If it’s just a matter of issuing a license, probably not, he said; if more services are required, then it might.

PVM also has been contracted to manage WA 2, the apple breeding program’s first apple released in 2009 and trade named Sunrise Magic.

PVM has made no overtures on any further releases, said Moyer and Lynnell Brandt, company president.

Evans points out cultivars in various stages of development at the Columbia View research orchard near Wenatchee. The row of trees to her right are kept as “mother” trees for new crosses, while the buds to her left are younger trees starting Phase 1. “Every year we plant trees, but every year we take out trees, as well,” she said. (Photo by TJ Mulinax,  Good Fruit Grower )

Evans points out cultivars in various stages of development at the Columbia View research orchard near Wenatchee. The row of trees to her right are kept as “mother” trees for new crosses, while the buds to her left are younger trees starting Phase 1. “Every year we plant trees, but every year we take out trees, as well,” she said. (Photo by TJ Mulinax, Good Fruit Grower)

Royalties

Though Cosmic Crisp is still a couple of years away from store shelves, stakeholders are already discussing how to spend the money it will make.

PVM projects 9 million 40-pound boxes on store shelves in 2022. Even if they sell for only $20 per box — an extremely low estimate — that would generate $180 million in sales. Washington State University charges 4.25 percent in royalties, meaning $7.65 million for one year. That doesn’t include royalties growers pay for each tree they purchase.

As spelled out in the faculty manual, half of those royalties will go to the breeders, the university’s Office of Commercialization and the university’s Agricultural Research Center. The second half must be set aside for the “enhancement of vegetatively propagated variety programs in consultation with the breeders.” Fruit trees are propagated vegetatively or by grafting; grains such as wheat and barely are propagated by seed.

The university is forming a committee of packers, growers and other industry stakeholders to devise a blueprint for how that second portion of the royalties are distributed. University officials hope to convene the group this summer, Hulbert and Moyer said. One idea is to create an endowment, designed to fund the program’s work regardless of what happens to prices and the market. “You never know how long this wave is going to last.”

That’s how the University of Minnesota handles royalties from its varieties, Honeycrisp, for which its patent has run out, SweeTango, Frost Bite and others. Rave will join the list soon.

The endowment of the Minnesota breeding program now stands at $1.6 million, said Jim Luby, director of fruit breeding programs, which is designed to help sustain the program in lean years. “You just don’t get hits that often,” Luby said. “It’s wonderful to have something like a Honeycrisp or a Cosmic Crisp, but those won’t come around every five years.”

The Minnesota program has released 24 new varieties to the world in its time. The state was once known for Haralson, a popular regional cultivar released in 1922 and the most widely grown apple in Minnesota until Honeycrisp was released in 1991.

Cornell, with 66 apple varieties under its belt, does not set aside royalties into an endowment, said breeder Susan Brown, creator of SnapDragon and RubyFrost, though she thinks that’s a good idea for WSU’s Cosmic Crisp royalties.

Minnesota’s breeding efforts are funded only through general taxes. At Cornell and WSU, the industry contributes directly through grower research assessments. The Washington Tree Fruit Research Commission recently approved another year of WSU apple scion development, led by Evans, to the tune of $268,000. Evans also receives grants from other organizations.

Besides the grants, the Research Commission partners directly with the breeding program to manage grower evaluations and directly carries out some supporting research. All told, over the past 10 years, the commission has funded $3.1 million worth of activities related to the breeding program.

The growers would like to change their funding role in the future, said Mike Willett, manager of the Research Commission. They don’t plan to withdraw their support, but they think royalties should fund the basic program, from crossing through fruit evaluation, while the commission’s grants go to new ideas and experiments.

“The use of royalty funds to support the core activities of the breeding program would free grower resources to allow greater emphasis on funding novel and emerging research directions in the apple breeding program,” he said.

Some growers on the commission contacted by Good Fruit Grower deferred comments to Willett.

Moyer and Evans are glad to hear growers are willing to continue funding at some level. They believe that industry investment will keep growers and packers “at the table,” as Evans described it, involved in the decision making and creativity.

“One of the strengths of this program is that it’s so interactive with the industry,” Evans said.

Article by Ross Courtney, Good Fruit Grower

Cosmic Crisp Exceeds Expectations, Part Two

With today’s Fruit Grower Report, I’m Bob Larson. Anticipation for the launch of the Cosmic Crisp apple has led to a 6.8 million acres of 2018 plantings, a million over expectations.
Kathryn Grandy with Proprietary Variety Management says it’s not TOO surprising.

GRANDY: “The Cosmic Crisp is an exceptional apple. It’s beautiful, it’s flavorful, it stores well, and so far, it’s grower friendly.”

BOB: And, Grandy says the plantings won’t stop this year.

GRANDY: “We have a large number of trees going in next year and then we expect it to drop off and even out to maybe one or two million a year.”

BOB: Grandy says consumers should get their first taste of Cosmic Crisp next year.

GRANDY: “We’re looking at fall of 2019 right now and the industry, we’re meeting on a regular basis and making those decisions and establishing some quality standards and how to finalize our plans to bring it to market.”

BOB: She says it’s great time for the industry.

GRANDY: “We’re all excited and I know our growers are working hard to get them planted as quickly as possible and they’re very enthusiastic and so are we. The amount of consumers writing in to social media and websites is fantastic so I know consumers out there are looking forward to the launch.”

BOB: A team is working on the marketing plan which will be unlike most as it will be pushing the Cosmic Crisp brand and not just sales. An estimate of nearly 200,000, 40-pound boxes of Cosmic Crisp will hit the stores in the fall of 2019, with incremental increases in the following years.

Podcast by Bob Larson, Ag Info

Cosmic Crisp Exceeds Expectations, Part One

With today’s Fruit Grower Report, I’m Bob Larson. Uncharted Territory. That’s just one of the words used to describe the acreage of Cosmic Crisp apples after it was anticipated to reach 5.8 million acres in 2018...

Proprietary Variety Management’s Kathryn Grandy says demand has exceeded expectations.

GRANDY: “We’re looking at shipping somewhere around 6.7 to 6.8 million. We’re completing our shipments right now and plantings going very well this Spring. And, the excess of trees were snatched up by the apple industry in Washington. And, everybody seems to remain quite enthusiastic about Cosmic Crisp.”

BOB: Grandy says never before…

GRANDY: “This is really a first. As we all know, the apple industry in Washington is the largest in the country and our industry has really collaborated together to launch this new apple variety.”

BOB: Asked if it’s growers planting new acres or growers replacing other varieties, Grandy says...

GRANDY: “You know, I’m asked that question often and I think it’s really a combination of both. I think there’s new ground being planted definitely, and there’s quite a bit of grafting over or pulling and replanting new varieties.”

BOB: She says unfortunately, the trend is moving away from certain varieties like Red and Golden Delicious, but there are other varieties that have been lagging in the market that are also in danger of losing acreage.

BOB: Tune in tomorrow to hear what’s next for the Cosmic Crisp and when we should see them in grocery stores.

Podcast by Bob Larson, Ag Info

Cosmic Crisp Plantings Beat Estimate

About 1 million more Cosmic Crisp apple trees are being planted this spring than were estimated in December. Some growers worry about oversupply.

More Cosmic Crisp apple trees are being planted this spring in Washington state than expected, heightening concerns about possible overproduction.

At the Washington State Tree Fruit Association meeting last December, Lynnell Brandt, president of Proprietary Variety Management, estimated Cosmic Crisp plantings at 5.8 million trees for the spring of 2018. The company was hired by Washington State University to help manage commercialization of the new state apple.

Now with the 2018 planting season three-fourths done, Brandt said this season’s tally will end at 6.7 million to 6.8 million Cosmic Crisp trees planted. And that accounts for losses reported by some nurseries from trees that died when their bud grafting onto rootstock failed, he said.

Willow Drive Nursery, near Ephrata, experienced about 37 percent mortality on its 2018 Cosmic Crisp and other nurseries were probably close to that, said Jim Adams, co-owner of Willow Drive.

“We don’t know what caused it. We’re trying to figure it out. Roots grew fine but didn’t transfer to the variety. Buds died,” Adams said.

Willow Drive grew 1 million Cosmic Crisp trees for 2018 but will grow 150,000 in 2019 because growers previously ordered fewer Cosmic Crisp and more of proprietary varieties for 2019, he said.

Other nurseries will make up for Willow Drive’s decline, and the best guess remains that 5.2 million more Cosmic Crisp will be planted in 2019, Brandt said.

A total of 629,000 trees were planted in 2017, the first year of commercial planting, he said.

Brandt said he expects plantings to drop to 2 million trees per year in 2020 and beyond.

He estimated just under 200,000, 40-pound boxes of Cosmic Crisp will go to grocery stores from the 2019 crop, 2 million for 2020, 6.2 million for 2021, 11.3 million for 2022, 15 million in 2023, 18 million in 2024, 20 million in 2025 and 22 million in 2026.

In comparison, Red Delicious peaked at 61.4 million boxes in 1994 and remains No. 1 at about 34 million. It’s taken Gala more than 20 years to reach 33 million and Honeycrisp 10 years to reach 12 million.

The fast ramp up of Cosmic Crisp makes a lot of growers nervous, Adams said.

“I hear from a lot of growers across the state. There’s a lot of nervousness, reservations about the sheer volume,” he said.

Brandt said oversupply will be countered by Cosmic Crisp being a better apple, replacing older strains of Red Delicious, Gala, Fuji, Golden Delicious, Braeburn, Cameo and Jonagold.

“I’m not sure everyone has a grasp on this,” Brandt said. “It will be a launch different than any other. Immediate critical mass. It opens a whole lot of avenues because of that notoriety and brand recognition and promises to the consumer that will be utilized like never before.”

The industry will work together using social media to directly reach consumers at limited costs, he said.

“Because it’s a brand it must have a marketing approach, not just a sales approach. The brand will become of paramount importance,” Brandt said.

An industry marketing committee, including five Crisp marketing entities that handle 80 percent or more of the state’s apple marketing, is making progress toward a marketing plan and has “a lot more work to be done over the next couple of years,” Brandt said.

Article by Dan Wheat, Capital Press

Supermarkets excited about new, bright red Cosmic Crisp (TM) apple

In the fall of 2019, American supermarkets will have a new apple on their shelves, and the new variety will be available for export markets a year after that. The Cosmic Crisp (TM) is an extension of the existing supply, Rebecca Lyons of Washington Apple Commission explains. Colour, flavour, shelf life; these are factors making the apple distinctive, she explains.  

The variety, originally named WA38, was developed by the tree fruit improvement programme of Washington State University..  “The parents of Cosmic Crisp™ are Honeycrisp and Enterprise, which give the large, juicy apple a firm and crisp texture, with the flavor an appetizing mix of sweet-tart.  It also has the characteristic of being naturally slow to brown when cut."

In recent years, many new varieties have been introduced. Why is the Cosmic Crisp (TM) distinctive? She admits that consumers are flooded by the amount of choice between the many available apple varieties. “Most of these new varieties are protected club varieties, which have a limited production by a limited number of growers, and sales are handled by one sales office,” she explains. “Cosmic Crisp(TM)  is a branded apple, but, unlike the proprietary varieties, it is available to any grower in the state of Washington, USA.. That means the variety will also be available from most, if not all, sales organisations in the state.”

Year-round availability

During the development of the variety, various testing orchards were planted. The first commercial orchards were planted in 2017, when 626,000 trees were planted. For this year, 5.2 million Cosmic Crisp trees were ordered, and for 2019, 4.1 million orders have been received. The first commercial harvest is expected in the autumn of 2019. “Volume will be limited in its first year, but we expect to market 5.1 million cartons (40lbs/18kg) by 2021.” It’s expected export will also pick up in 2020, due to the available volume combined with interest shown in the apple by international retailers.

September and October are the harvest months for this apple. Another positive characteristic is the apple’s good shelf life, according to Rebecca. The apples can be kept in storage for one year without losing their flavour or texture. “With this good storage characteristic, imports  ’won’t be needed. Besides, the global planting of Cosmic Crisp will be limited for the first ten years, and growers in Washington State will have the largest commercial volume available world-wide.”

Red eye-catcher

The apple is also being praised by retail. ”There  is a lot of excitement among US retailers for Cosmic Crisp ™”, Rebecca says. “It’s bright red in color, and very eye-catching on display.  It will make a nice change from the many bi-colored varieties currently on offer.”

Right now, people are working hard on the marketing strategy for the apple. Washington State University has appointed Proprietary Variety Management (PVM) to commercialize the apple. In cooperation with an industry advisory committee, packaging, labels and promotion material is now being developed. Rebecca doesn’t rule out a Euro-packaging in addition to the standard box (40 lbs per box). “Because it’s a brand, it’s important individual packers and exporters use a consistent design. It has to be clear to consumers that it’s a Cosmic Crisp (TM).”

Article by Rudolf Mulderj, Fresh Fruit Plaza

COSMIC CRISP, A PROPRIETARY VARIETY AVAILABLE TO WASHINGTON STATE GROWERS

When the U.S. apple industry gained access for all varieties to the Chinese market in 2015 the impact was immediate. Shipments to mainland China leaped from a mere US$3.6 million in 2014 to US$23.2 million the following year.

Since then exports have lagged off somewhat down to US$17.7 million in 2017, but this is still almost five times what it was before the new protocol – a time when only Red Delicious or Golden Delicious could be shipped to the East Asian country.

In volume terms, last year apples were the third-highest U.S. fruit commodity exported to mainland China, behind cherries and citrus and ahead of table grapes. 

“While it’s small in comparison to Red Delicious, Galas and Granny Smiths, we’re seeing interest in some of these high-value proprietary varieties going through the e-commerce platform, which really provides tremendous incentive for our industry as currently that’s where our growth pattern is.”

While there are almost too many of these cultivars to mention coming out of the Pacific Northwest, Fryhover says most of the ones with sufficient volume behind them are being tested in the Chinese market.

“The quantity going into these markets is very small. We’re just touching our toes into China into exports of these proprietary varieties because they are focused on the U.S. domestic market. No question,” he says.

Todd Fryhover of the Washington Apple Commission says export market development will be essential as plantings of new premium varieties such as Cosmic Crisp come on-line.

Todd Fryhover of the Washington Apple Commission says export market development will be essential as plantings of new premium varieties such as Cosmic Crisp come on-line.

However, with aggressive plantings underway the development of export markets will be crucial to the success of these apples. Fryhover believes this will be the case particularly for Cosmic Crisp, a cross between Honeycrisp and Enterprise apples.

“Cosmic Crisp is proprietary in the context that every grower in the state of Washington has access to these trees, It’s not one packer, one grower, it’s everyone,” he says.

Todd Fryhover of the Washington Apple Commission says export market development will be essential as plantings of new premium varieties such as Cosmic Crisp come on-line.

“The growers of New York or Pennsylvania or in most cases overseas, they don’t have access to this variety. 

“So what we see in the next 10 years is a huge increase in plantings and availability of Cosmic Crisp and it will need to go export almost immediately because volume will come on so quickly.”

Article by Fresh Fruit Portal

Apple Commission to promote proprietary varieties overseas

Todd Fryhover, President of the Washington Apple Commission. Photo by Dan Wheat,  Capital Press .

Todd Fryhover, President of the Washington Apple Commission. Photo by Dan Wheat, Capital Press.

The Washington Apple Commission has learned it can promote proprietary apple varieties overseas, at least to some extent, and sees it as a helpful tool in an increasingly challenging marketing climate.

At a commission meeting March 22 in Yakima, Commission President Todd Fryhover said while at the USDA Foreign Agricultural Service the previous week in Washington, D.C., he was told the commission can offer consumer samples of proprietary varieties overseas at retailers’ requests.

“It could be a Lady Alice, a SweeTango, whatever. That’s a huge deal to us. It’s difficult to get retailers overseas to do demos with Reds (Red Delicious) and Gala, but they ask about the proprietaries,” Fryhover said.

Proprietary varieties — there are many — are varieties grown, packed and sold under the control of one company or a group of companies versus being available to all growers, packers and marketers. They’re limited in volume, sell for high prices and along with Honeycrisp provide the most profits.

“I don’t want proprietaries to overtake Reds and Gala overseas, so we need a process for what we do. There’s a lot of things we need to work through because we have to move Reds and Gala,” Fryhover said.

Proprietaries can sell in higher-end retail markets and generate excitement along with Washington’s new Cosmic Crisp to debut in 2019 and 2020, he said.

Cosmic Crisp is intended to begin in domestic markets only. But Frank Davis, commissioner and vice president of sales at Washington Fruit & Produce Co., Yakima, said it will need to be exported as soon as possible because of the large volumes planned.

Davis said he would look into why Proprietary Varieties Management, the manager of Cosmic Crisp, may be seeking federal Market Access Program funding for export promotions when that should occur through the Apple Commission.

Article by Dan Wheat, The Packer

INDUSTRY GEARS UP TO MARKET COSMIC CRISP APPLES

With the first Cosmic Crisp apples reaching grocery stores in two years, the Washington apple industry is working toward a marketing plan for the new state apple.

KENNEWICK, Wash. — Developing a marketing plan and funding for it are among the tasks remaining as the Washington apple industry prepares for the first sales of Cosmic Crisp apples in two years.

Kevin Brandt, vice president of Proprietary Variety Management in Yakima, Wash., was asked about the marketing budget for Cosmic Crisp at the Washington State Tree Fruit Association annual meeting in Kennewick.

“We don’t know at this point. We understand it needs to be a large roll-out. We know that takes money. We’re looking at grants,” Brandt replied.

His father, Lynnell Brandt, president of PVM, which was hired by Washington State University to help manage commercialization of the new state apple, said a marketing advisory committee is working “toward consensus” for a marketing plan and that all options, except probably new grower assessments, are being looked at for funding.

Money is needed for the first few years of the launch but as sales volumes increase companies will have revenues to augment marketing, Lynnell Brandt said.

Five marketing entities that handle 80 percent or more of the state’s apple marketing are working well together on the committee despite being competitors, committee chairman Robert Kershaw, president of Domex Superfresh Growers in Yakima, has said.

With 629,000 Cosmic Crisp trees planted in the spring of 2017, 5.8 million ready for planting in the spring of 2018 and 5.2 million to be planted in 2019, Brandt estimates 200,000, 40-pound boxes of Cosmic Crisp will go to stores from the 2019 crop, 1.9 million in 2020, 5 million in 2021 and 9 million in 2022. Production may reach 15 million boxes in 10 years.

Most of the plantings will replace older strains of Red Delicious, Gala, Fuji, Golden Delicious, Braeburn, Cameo and Jonagold, Brandt said.

PVM will help develop and coordinate the marketing plan with advice from the advisory committee, Brandt said. The first major crop in 2020 is the target date for having a plan in place, he said.

A subcommittee is working on grading standards that may be adjusted after the first few years of juvenile fruit.

Cosmic Crisp was bred from Enterprise and Honeycrisp apples 20 years ago by WSU apple breeder Bruce Barritt at the WSU Tree Fruit Research and Extension Center in Wenatchee. It rates high in flavor, color, storage and resistance to disease and disorders. The industry believes consumers will like its sweet, tangy flavor more than that of Honeycrisp.

Washington leads the nation by far in apple sales at $2.4 billion annually. Such a huge ramp-up of a new variety has never been tried before.

The planting of 12 million trees in three years has been estimated as a collective industry investment of $275 million to $550 million. A 10 million-box crop of Cosmic Crisp could gross $300 million to $500 million annually.

Desmond O’Rourke, a retired WSU agricultural economist and world apple market analyst, said there may be too many other apples of Honeycrisp heritage on the market in five years.

“I don’t think so. Consumer response is extremely good to that type of apple. There is no reason to believe that we are coming close to saturating that aspect at all,” Brandt said.

Costco likes Cosmic Crisp and has a “spot open on the spread sheet for it,” Keith Neal, a Costco buyer, told growers at the meeting.

Chris Willett, quality control and packing manager for T&G Global in Wenatchee, told growers the anticipated, unprecedented ramp-up is “daunting,” that it is “difficult” to launch marketing that quickly and that consumption will only grow so fast.

“The question is will other varieties move away fast enough. Quality has to be there and the right price,” he said.

Brandt said good branding is vital and that 38.5 percent of produce is branded and the percentage is growing because it increases revenues.

“Branding is a name, a term, a design or symbol that differentiates a product. It can be a picture or name recognition. Strong brands drive consumer traffic and deliver a promise,” he said.

Consumers are willing to pay more for a branded product because it guarantees consistent quality, he said. The Nike shoe symbol is an example, he said.

PVM has trademarked the name Cosmic Crisp and is applying for a logo trademark. It likes a logo developed by Blind Renaissance Inc. in East Wenatchee showing the name in a galaxy of stars but has not made a final decision on it.

The logo would be the dominant feature of all packaging and PLU (price look up) stickers with the Washington apple logo as a secondary element, Brandt said.

A database system will track tree sales, licensed growers and packers, fruit sales and royalties to help in marketing, he said.

Article by Dan Wheat, Capital Press

Varieties and Cosmic Crisp: Day 1, Hort Show afternoon wrap

Variety talks highlight afternoon at annual meeting

Specialized varieties, specifically Cosmic Crisp, headlined the discussion during the afternoon session of the Hort show, the Washington State Tree Fruit Association’s annual meeting in Kennewick.

Lynnell Brandt and his son Kevin, both representatives of Proprietary Variety Management, told growers that nurseries will have 5.8 million trees of Cosmic Crisp apples ready for planting in 2018, with 5.2 million to follow in 2019.

Washington State University, which bred Cosmic Crisp, the brand name for the WA 38 cultivar, contracted Proprietary Variety Management of Yakima, Washington, to manage the commercial rollout of the new variety.

Lynnell Brandt, president of PVM, told growers that branded produce is becoming a bigger factor in the market. Currently, 38 percent of produce is branded, a share that’s growing.

Industry leaders expect other apples, perhaps Galas and even Honeycrisps, to make way for branded apples such as Cosmic Crisp, but they urged growers to pick and deliver only first-rate fruit to attract return buyers.

“It’s going to take discipline,” said Chris Willett of T&G Global, the New Zealand company that owns the Enza apple brands Pacific Rose, Jazz and Envy.

Willett and Bruce Turner, a market representative for Oneonta Starr Ranch Growers, both suggested the state set aside a lot of money for marketing to make sure shoppers know about the Cosmic Crisp when it hits store shelves in 2019 and 2020. The first commercial orchards were planted in 2017.

The Hort show continues Tuesday and Wednesday with research news flashes, Spanish sessions, horticultural topics, technology and industry awards.

Article by Ross Courtney, Good Fruit Grower

The Next Big Apple Variety Was Bred for Deliciousness in Washington

Created at Washington State University, the Cosmic Crisp is growing beyond Cougar country.

Washington state is widely known as one of the best places in the world to grow apples, but it isn’t particularly well known for breeding them — a fact that bothered growers like Robert Kershaw and scientists like Bruce Barritt in the 1990s.

“When I got out of college, I was absolutely shocked that our industry was Reds and Goldens and that any new variety seemed to come from some other country,” says Kershaw, whose family started growing pears and apples in Yakima in the 1900s. “All the cool stuff was coming from somewhere else.”

Washington’s most successful apple, the Red Delicious, was developed in Iowa. The Golden Delicious got its start in West Virginia, the Gala in New Zealand and the Granny Smith in Australia. The Fuji was bred in Japan and the hugely popular — and expensive — Honeycrisp was created in Minnesota (and became Minnesota’s official state fruit in 2006).

Growers know it can take 20 to 30 years to breed and select a new variety viable enough for commercialization. And in the 1990s, the state’s reliance on the Red Delicious — notorious for looking appetizing even when it turns mealy from long storage — was leading the industry into a tailspin. It ultimately would cause some growers, packers and other industry players to go out of business.

Horticulturalist Barritt also thought the state’s popular varieties were obsolete and was already lobbying Washington State University (WSU) and the industry to fund an apple breeding program, which eventually began in 1994. Barritt’s quest for better commercial apples has resulted in what growers and industry players believe will replace the aging Red Delicious and the grass-roots consumer favorite, the Honeycrisp. 

The new apple, a variety named WA 38 by researchers and branded the Cosmic Crisp for marketing purposes, is leading WSU into uncharted territory. The university and its Yakima-based commercialization partner, Proprietary Variety Management (PVM), are trying to refine a new industry economic model being used for “premium” apple varieties. The model replaces the old “push” system, in which everyone involved — breeder, nursery operator, grower, packer, marketer and retailer — pushed varieties such as red delicious that were less prone to bruising, could be stored for a year, had a long shelf life, were easy to grow and weren’t susceptible to disease. The new “pull” approach is designed to get the customer involved earlier in the process via consumer research and feedback. Think taste tests and focus groups. Not surprisingly, consumers want varietes that are red, juicy, crunchy, taste good and don’t turn brown quickly. 

“The consumer has the money. We want the money. So, we have to find out what they want in order to get the money. It’s as simple as that,” argues PVM President Lynnell Brandt. Cosmic Crisp, it turns out, meets the criteria set out by both growers and consumers. 

WSU and PVM are launching Cosmic Crisp at a time when more than 20 other varieties with premium aspirations are hitting the market. Even so, grower enthusiasm for Cosmic Crisp is so strong that the apple’s launch will be the biggest ever. If all goes well, it will be the state’s — and WSU’s — first commercially successful home-bred apple.

Bred by WSU’s Barritt, now retired, and his successor, Professor Kate Evans, the Cosmic Crisp is a dark burgundy-red apple with star-like flecks, or lenticels, that helped give the apple its name. It’s a cross between the Enterprise and the Honeycrisp. Earlier this year, 35 growers in Washington — the only ones allowed to grow Cosmic Crisp — planted an unprecedented number of the new trees, about 630,000 in all.

Demand for the new variety was so great that WSU and PVM held a random, computer-generated lottery in 2014 to award the first trees because there weren’t enough for every Washington grower who wanted in on the action. An additional 5.5 million trees have been ordered for 2018 by many of the 445 applicants who failed to win the initial lottery; 5.5 million more trees are expected to be planted in 2019.

At 11.6 million trees in a mere three years, the number of Cosmic Crisp trees planted and ordered exceeds the total number of trees currently in production in Michigan, the country’s third-largest apple-producing state, which boasts 11 million trees.

It also represents the fastest ramp-up of any variety — and it has some people worried. Nearly 12 million trees are 10 times the typical amount planted at this stage of development, and it is occurring in just three years, not the 20 years it took the last consumer favorite, the Honeycrisp, to reach such volume. 

Cosmic Crisp growers are ripping out old, less profitable varieties, often upgrading by planting more intensively with dwarfing rootstock, “V” or upright trellises, and planting 1,200 to 1,800 trees per acre. Typically, there are 110 to 120 very large trees per acre in older Red or Golden Delicious orchards.

Growers are upgrading hundreds of acres at a cost of some $35,000 per acre, more than $60,000 if they are buying new land. But because the Cosmic Crisp is bred for dense planting, fewer than 1,500 acres can accommodate 2 million trees. The cost to Washington growers is estimated at $40 million.

So, why are apple growers willing to make this multimillion-dollar bet?

“A number of things are coming together at the same time to make it very exciting and intriguing,” says PVM’s Brandt, who also runs Brandt’s Fruit Trees in Yakima. “[Cosmic Crisp] was bred here for our conditions and it is a ‘wow’ apple. It really has exceptional eating quality, exceptional storage, exceptional shelf life and it doesn’t have much, if any, oxidation.”

Because it is slow to brown, the Cosmic Crisp doesn’t need to be kept in low-oxygen storage It also is hardier than the Honeycrisp, which can succumb to rot and mildew in the field — it’s not uncommon for half of a Honeycrisp crop to be left in the orchard — and to punctures and bruising in the packing house. 

“It’s the right thing for the right time,” Brandt waxes on about Cosmic Crisp. “The industry is recognizing their flagship Red Delicious is declining in popularity and reputation, and there is need to find a superior flagship. The hope is that this selection can be that apple.”

Brandt and other growers won’t know how consumers will react to the apple until 2019 or, more likely, 2020. Limited amounts of Cosmic Crisp will officially hit a small number of supermarkets in 2019, when Brandt’s computer models expect the young trees to bear their first fruit and to produce about 170,000 40-pound boxes.

Typically, a single grower, or maybe a handful, will bet on a new variety, and it takes 10 years or more to get a million trees planted. That volume can produce enough apples to fulfill regional orders; more trees are then needed to fill national demand. Year-round distribution requires an even larger volume of apples and trees. And that’s what Washington growers are shooting for.

“It’s the first time we’ve seen a variety that has to be an instant hit because there’s so much production going in on the front end,” says Kaari Stannard, owner and president of New York Apple Sales in Glenmont, New York, and secretary of the U.S. Apple Association.

“There’s no gentle curve leading up to it.”

Smaller apple-producing states simply can’t come up with that volume, she says. Washington state has about 165,000 bearing acres of apples and produces 65 to 70 percent of the nation’s supply. That’s more than twice the combined total of bearing acres in New York, the second-largest apple-producing state, and Michigan, according to 2016 USDA figures.

“We’re just waiting to see what kind of standards they set and how they plan to bring it to market,” Stannard says. “It’s going to be a very interesting story.”

Growers are betting the Cosmic Crisp will command a premium price, much like the Honeycrisp, which changed the economics of the commercial apple industry. Bred at the University of Minnesota, the Honeycrisp was the first widely accepted, patented, premium-priced apple. It fetches an average of $3.49 a pound in stores today and still brings to growers $50 to $60 per box. 

. . .

The marketing of Cosmic Crisp falls to an advisory committee headed up by Kershaw, who was drafted after he gave WSU and PVM an earful about the bungled WA 2 launch.

“I thought I offended them so badly that they’d never talk to me again,” Kershaw says. “But two days later, they called me and said, ‘We liked all your ideas. We’re going with them and want you to be chairman of the marketing committee.’

“I thought the Cosmic Crisp would ramp up moderately,” he adds. “I didn’t expect everyone to decide to plant 10 million trees. We’ve gone from a variety you couldn’t launch to one that’s almost launching so fast that it’s scary.”

Kathryn Grandy, who leads marketing for PVM, says the promotional budget for Cosmic Crisp and its official funding source have yet to be determined. No doubt the budget will need to be in the multiple millions. At the height of its national promotion of fresh apples in 2000, the Washington Apple Commission spent $8 million to market Washington-grown apples. Today, the organization only handles international sales.

In an unprecedented display of cooperation, 13 marketing groups in Washington are setting aside their rivalry to work together to market Cosmic Crisp and advise PVM. They have already agreed to leave their own packing-house names out of any advertising and plan to use Washington Apple as secondary branding.

Of course, some are skeptical that individual competitors can work together. The Cosmic Crisp committee members “already have their own varieties and built-in incentives to push their own premium varieties with retailers,” says O’Rourke. “It’s going to be a weakness of the Cosmic Crisp. Stemilt [Growers] has SweeTango, CMI and Ambrosia, and Oppenheimer [Group] has a huge incentive to promote Jazz and Envy. And those are the folks on the Cosmic Crisp marketing committee.”

Kershaw counters: “There are just five marketing teams that do 80 percent or more of the state’s apple marketing, so it’s easy to talk strategy versus 30 years ago, when the Washington Apple Commission was promoting and there were 60 or 70 marketers. We’ve always been competitors, but we’re currently working together on this project, and it’s going pretty well so far.”

The industry is still a few years away from knowing if America will warm to this large, juicy apple with a remarkably firm and crisp texture. But Kershaw, whose family has been growing apples for five generations, sees both economic promise and a measure of bragging rights at the core of Cosmic Crisp’s gestation. 

“If we’re successful and the royalty dollars come back to the industry and the research department,” he muses, “maybe my grandkids will be able to say they get all the best varieties from Washington research and breeding programs.”

Article by M. Sharon Baker, Seattle Business Magazine

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

Growers pin big hopes for Cosmic Crisp

Washington apple growers planted 630,000 new Cosmic Crisp apple trees this spring and will plant an estimated 10 million more trees over the next two years to revolutionize variety offerings of the nation’s largest apple-producing state.

Chris Anderson of Manson, Wash., on June 9 with the Cosmic Crisp™ brand apples trees he planted in April and May. He spent about $20,000 on 2,200 trees and hopes they bring him good returns. About 50 growers, selected in a drawing ,also planted Cosmic Crisp™ brand trees this spring. Photo by Dan Wheat.

Chris Anderson of Manson, Wash., on June 9 with the Cosmic Crisp™ brand apples trees he planted in April and May. He spent about $20,000 on 2,200 trees and hopes they bring him good returns. About 50 growers, selected in a drawing ,also planted Cosmic Crisp™ brand trees this spring. Photo by Dan Wheat.

MANSON, Wash. — Chris Anderson is in his 37th year of operating a small apple orchard once owned by his father on the north shore of Lake Chelan.

He’s among more than 50 Washington growers selected in a drawing for this spring’s first planting of the Cosmic Crisp, a new apple variety that industry leaders hope will usher in a new era.

It’s a $275 million to $500 million risk on an apple the industry hopes consumers will love. Plans call for it to replace the Red Delicious as the new Washington state apple and be the foundation for higher and steadier financial returns for decades to come.

Apples are big business in Washington state. They are the top agricultural commodity, grossing $2.4 billion annually. About 65 percent of the apples grown in the U.S. come from Washington orchards.

Cosmic Crisp™ brand trees near East Wenatchee, Wash., on June 9. These were planted a year ago by Van Well Nursery and are certified mother trees. Cuttings from them will be taken each fall for use in budding new Cosmic Crisp™ brand trees onto rootstock. Photo by Dan Wheat.

Cosmic Crisp™ brand trees near East Wenatchee, Wash., on June 9. These were planted a year ago by Van Well Nursery and are certified mother trees. Cuttings from them will be taken each fall for use in budding new Cosmic Crisp™ brand trees onto rootstock. Photo by Dan Wheat.

For three weeks in April and May, Anderson laid out neat rows and hauled trees and fertilizer, helping his three workers plant by hand 2,200 Cosmic Crisp trees on a little over 2 acres. Elsewhere in Central Washington, other growers planted up to 20,000 trees apiece, mostly by machine.

Anderson is optimistic about the new apple.

“It’s something being heavily promoted, sounded like it might be fun. And, yes, I’m looking for better returns,” said Anderson, 64, who with his wife, Sally, runs the orchard.

Anderson tore out Fuji apple trees last fall to make room for his Cosmic Crisp.

“Fuji are very late and I don’t have a long enough growing season. There have been years I picked them in the snow and years they froze on the trees,” Anderson said.

Unprecedented plan

This rapid roll-out marks a first for the industry.

Ricardo Santacruz reaches for a Cosmic Crisp™ limb of buds as Eduardo Morales gets ready to wrap the bud. They are part of a crew of 45 budding Cosmic Crisp™ buds onto rootstock trees at Willow Drive Nursery near Ephrata, Wash., on Sept. 12, 2016. Photo by Dan Wheat.

Ricardo Santacruz reaches for a Cosmic Crisp™ limb of buds as Eduardo Morales gets ready to wrap the bud. They are part of a crew of 45 budding Cosmic Crisp™ buds onto rootstock trees at Willow Drive Nursery near Ephrata, Wash., on Sept. 12, 2016. Photo by Dan Wheat.

“The 5 million is an extremely high number for any one variety of apple tree to be planted in any given year in the state or nationwide,” said Neal Manly, managing partner of Regal Fruit, an apple breeding and variety management company in Ephrata, Wash.

According to Manly’s survey of the state’s nurseries, 40 percent of the trees planted next year will be Cosmic Crisp. Only Red Delicious and Honeycrisp reached 40 percent of annual plantings in the past and Gala peaked at 25 percent.

Newly planted trees produce few apples in their first two years, so Anderson and other growers will knock them off early so the tree’s energy will go toward growth.

Lynnell Brandt, president of Proprietary Variety Management, a Yakima, Wash., company WSU hired to help manage the commercialization of Cosmic Crisp, estimates that nearly 200,000, 40-pound boxes of Cosmic Crisp apples will debut in U.S. stores from the 2019 crop. That will jump to 1.9 million boxes in 2020, 5 million in 2021 and 9 million in 2022.

At the Washington State Tree Fruit Association meeting last December, Robert Kershaw, president of Domex Superfresh Growers in Yakima, said such an accelerated ramp-up has never before been tried. He called it “insanity” and a “gamble” that could end in reward or failure and said it would take the whole industry pulling together to write the Cosmic Crisp success story.

West Mathison, president of Stemilt Growers in Wenatchee, said the fastest switch in the consumption of varieties will happen over a five-year span that will “blow people’s hair back.” In the last two seasons, prices for Red Delicious and Gala have crashed because of too much volume and loss of consumer popularity.

Brandt anticipates Cosmic Crisp will replace large amounts of Reds and Gala in relatively short order. Older strains of Fuji, Golden Delicious, Braeburn, Cameo and Jonagold and even Honeycrisp numbers will diminish, he said.

The new mix will be Cosmic Crisp and proprietary varieties, along with some Fuji, Gala, Granny Smith and Honeycrisp.

Ricardo Sanchez notches a rootstock stem for a bud from the Cosmic Crisp™ limbs in his left hand. Eduardo Morales, behind him, wraps the bud in plastic at Willow Drive Nursery near Ephrata, Wash., on Sept. 12, 2016. Photo by Dan Wheat.

Ricardo Sanchez notches a rootstock stem for a bud from the Cosmic Crisp™ limbs in his left hand. Eduardo Morales, behind him, wraps the bud in plastic at Willow Drive Nursery near Ephrata, Wash., on Sept. 12, 2016. Photo by Dan Wheat.

“We are hopeful Cosmic Crisp can be the new flagship of the industry. We have that hope because it’s such a good apple and because the entire industry will be working to promote the brand in a very positive light and the industry has some exclusivity in the North American market, which can enhance the focus,” Brandt said. Washington growers will be the sole source of the new apple in North America for the first decade.

Kershaw heads a committee of most of the state’s major tree fruit companies advising Brandt on marketing.

“It’s not without conflict but conflict is good to sort out all the issues and have a good healthy debate and to make sure we are looking at everything from all angles and perspectives,” Kershaw said.

The committee has reached a consensus on every main decision, including uniform packaging. Grading standards are next and will need to be tightly managed to ensure a successful launch, he said.

Financial hopes

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Honeycrisp is a big money-maker for the industry, but its margins have begun to narrow as volume has increased. It’s common for Honeycrisp to sell at wholesale in the $50-$70 per box range while most other unmanaged varieties do well to reach $30. Break-even for orchards is typically about $17 a box.

For Cosmic Crisp, “the expectation is Honeycrisp pricing, but the consumer will decide. If they sell well at high prices, prices will stay high. If they don’t, prices will need to come down to generate more momentum,” Kershaw said.

Red Delicious, the volume king for 82 years, peaked at 61.4 million boxes in 1994 but was still at 39.5 million boxes this year, almost one-third of the state’s apple production.

While the volume of Red Delicious has held up, its price hasn’t. It was selling for $11 to $14.90 per box for standard grade, medium size on June 7. In 2014, it bottomed out at $8 per box. At those prices, growers make no money and packer-shipper-marketers, who get their cut first, make little to nothing.

Grower costs and packing, shipping and marketing costs all vary, but Anderson, the Manson grower, said on a $30 box of fruit the grower makes one-third and on a $50 box the grower can make two-thirds.

Even the popular Honeycrisp has not performed well for him.

“I have not done well with Honeycrisp,” he says. “My packouts are poor.”

Cosmic Crisp should provide better returns than Honeycrisp because production costs will be lower and storage and packouts — after cull apples are taken out — will be better, Brandt said. He believes the new apple will top 30 million boxes annually.

If those numbers hold true and the price stays high, the payoff for the industry would be impressive.

In round numbers, just a 10 million-box crop of Cosmic Crisp that sells for $30 per box would gross $300 million; at $50 per box, the crop would gross $500 million.

WSU will get a royalty of 4.75 percent of every box that sells for more than $20. On a $500 million crop, 4.75 percent is $23.7 million. There’s also a $1 royalty on every tree sold for planting. Trees generally cost $9, including the royalty. On 10 million trees sold, the royalty is $10 million.

Of those total royalties, around 20 percent will go for commercialization costs including patenting and Proprietary Variety Management’s fee, said James Moyer, associate dean of research at WSU’s College of Agricultural, Human and Natural Resource Sciences. Neither he nor PVM’s Brandt would disclose the management fee.

Of the remaining royalties, 10 percent will go to the WSU Office of Commercialization; 10 percent will go to the College of Agricultural, Human and Natural Resource Sciences; 30 percent will be shared by the breeders; and 50 percent will go to WSU plant breeding programs with a majority earmarked for apple breeding, Moyer said.

“We’re discussing ways in which we could create an endowment or some other vehicle to keep the apple breeding program secure for many years to come,” Moyer said.

“We are extremely proud of the breeding program and the excitement it has generated in the industry and we are encouraged by how the industry has come together to cooperate and guide us in the licensing, marketing and developing standards,” Moyer said.

Article by Dan Wheat, Capital Press

The Sky's the Limit for Cosmic Crisp™ Apples

Lynnell Brandt, PVM President

Lynnell Brandt, PVM President

Proprietary Variety Management (PVM) president Lynnell Brandt says limitations on certified budwood are the reason Cosmic Crisp apples haven’t been planted too extensively to date, but virtually all of Washington State’s leading growers are on board with the cultivar with aggressive expansion in the pipeline.

The state has been granted exclusivity for the variety’s commercialization in North America for at least 10 years.

As a cross between Honeycrisp and Enterprise apples, Brandt describes the Cosmic Crisp as having some acid but it’s more on the sweeter side of the spectrum, with “incredible” shelf life and storage.

“Next year will be the first planting and there will be 629,000 trees planted,” the industry veteran told www.freshfruitportal.com during apple industry event Interpoma in Bolzano, Italy late last month.

He says there are now 5.2 million trees on the books to be planted in 2018, followed by well in excess of three million in 2019.

“We know that’s going to climb, because that’s not a normal situation to be ordering that far out but we know there’s a lot of interest and intent.

“There’s a realization within the Washington State industry that the older standby varieties are not returning much to the grower – it’s the new proprietary varieties that are returning the most, so there’s a need then to replant the Golden Delicious, the older Fujis, and especially Red Delicious.

“Washington State University has come out with this apple that seems to be a ‘WOW’ apple – it’ll keep 52 weeks out of the year, it has a good profile, has won over a lot of consumers in testing, and so forth.” 

Brandt forecasts the industry to reach 10 to12 million boxes of Cosmic Crisp apples within the next six to seven, before volumes climb from there at a “very high rate”.

While it is likely more of the Cosmic Crisp plantings will be to replace older varieties, Brandt emphasizes the importance of new plantings as well.

“All of the new plantings with the new techniques and the new spacing and so forth are having a much higher production per acre than the older plantings, so volumes will go up.”

He says the apple’s potential is so large that major players can’t afford to not get involved with Cosmic Crisp, and therefore “all of them” are on the books.

“I’m not being facetious with that – once you get something started like that then none of them as marketing agencies can be left out. They have to be able to have the product to be able to compete, so they’re all getting involved,” he says.

Brandt adds PVM has a contractual relationship for the variety with Italian cooperatives Vog and VI.P for the Cosmic Crisp apple in Europe, but the plant materials are still in the process of going through quarantine.

Article by Fresh Fruit Portal

Cosmic Crisp™ insights: Hort Show Preview

Washington Beefs Up Education Ahead Of Plantings Of New Variety.

We’re getting close. Washington growers will plant the first commercial trees for the much-anticipated Cosmic Crisp apple in the spring.

Antonio Quintana of Mt. Adams Orchards discusses the stem length of Cosmic Crisp apples with Juan Piñon of Wilson Irrigation during a field day at test blocks north of Prosser, Washington, in September. [Photo Courtesy of Ross Courtney, Good Fruit Grower]

Antonio Quintana of Mt. Adams Orchards discusses the stem length of Cosmic Crisp apples with Juan Piñon of Wilson Irrigation during a field day at test blocks north of Prosser, Washington, in September. [Photo Courtesy of Ross Courtney, Good Fruit Grower]

To keep up with the excitement, organizers of this month’s Washington State Tree Fruit Association annual meeting in Wenatchee are dedicating nearly an entire session to the WA 38 apple, sold under the trade name Cosmic Crisp, the latest variety released by the Washington State University breeding program.

“It’s one of the first real releases from the WSU breeding program, so we really wanted people to get a lot of information about it so they can make informed decisions,” said Sam Godwin, a Tonasket, Washington, grower and chair of the annual meeting planning committee.

Topics for the Cosmic Crisp session, which is scheduled for Dec. 5, will include recommended horticultural techniques, licensing and marketing.

In addition to the convention, researchers have been holding well-attended field days to share the latest information on growing and storing the variety, while nurseries are ramping up propagation to make their first deliveries later this winter.

“The timing is important because a lot of people are making decisions about whether to get involved with the new variety,” Godwin said.

Still, the education will be ongoing as field trials continue to yield more results, orchardist Dave Allan told a group of fellow growers at a September field day near Prosser, Washington. Grade standards are a work in progress, too.

“We are trying a number of different systems, and some of them are going to work well and some are not,” said Allan, who ran some of the trial blocks at Allan Brothers’ orchards. “And we’re in the process of discovery.”

Count him in as a booster though. He predicts the apple will become one of Washington’s most successful. “I think we all agree with that,” he said. “If we’re wrong we’re all going to have to go to dumb school, but we’ll all get there together. But I think it’s going to be successful."

More Cosmic Crisp tips

o test growth habits, WSU researchers grafted Cosmic Crisp scions onto Granny Smith trees on Malling 9 rootstocks at the Sunrise research orchard in Wenatchee, Washington. They are experimenting with one-, two- and three-leader training systems. [Photo Courtesy of Ross Courtney, Good Fruit Grower]

o test growth habits, WSU researchers grafted Cosmic Crisp scions onto Granny Smith trees on Malling 9 rootstocks at the Sunrise research orchard in Wenatchee, Washington. They are experimenting with one-, two- and three-leader training systems. [Photo Courtesy of Ross Courtney, Good Fruit Grower]

Growers continue to glean tips and advice about growing the Cosmic Crisp as they prepare to plant the first commercial trees next spring.

Researchers held two field days in mid-September to give growers a glimpse of Washington State University’s newest apple on trees at harvest time. The visits followed similar field days in April shortly after bloom.

The Cosmic Crisp, or WA 38, was developed by the university’s apple breeding program and, in the United States, will be grown exclusively by Washington growers for 10 years.

Growers will start the first commercial plantings in 2017 with more to follow in the coming years.

Here are several points researchers made during three Washington field days in Prosser, Quincy and Wenatchee:

—Don’t thin Cosmic trees until you have a full crop after three years or so.

The tree tends to thin itself down to single pieces of fruit with few doubles and virtually no triples, while fruit helps control the growth of the vigorous variety.

Karen Lewis, a Washington State University regional extension specialist, said she learned the hard way with a hand-held string thinner at the Roza trial orchard in Prosser. “I over thinned because I didn’t understand that this variety, this cultivar, tends to thin itself down pretty easy,” she said.

—Avoid Manchurian crab apple pollinizers.

They share an allele in common with Cosmic Crisp, making them 50 percent incompatible. Researchers are searching for recommended pollinators specific to the Cosmic, but until then they advise using multiple sources, including Whitney crab and Snowdrift crab, and commercial varieties such as Granny Smith, Red Delicious, Golden Delicious or Winter Banana. Plant a pollinizer tree every 30 feet in every row.

—Cooling and shade is recommended but not essential.

The test blocks at Sunrise and Roza research orchards have no shading or overhead cooling and researchers are finding few sunburn problems. Commercial growers Stemilt Growers and Allan Brothers have used overhead cooling in their test blocks, which are several years older than the university’s blocks.

Article by Ross Courtney, Good Fruit Grower