High interest in new varieties
The first Washington plantings of Envy will go in the ground in 2010.
Growers are showing great interest in new, managed varieties, Washington State nurseries report.
Between 30 and 45 percent of the trees grown by Willow Drive Nursery in Ephrata are ENZA-controlled varieties, said marketing director Neal Manly.
ENZA varieties are offered to a limited number of growers, and the fruit must be handled by specified warehouses and marketers. Envy, a new variety from ENZA in New Zealand, will be planted for the first time in Washington in 2010. Rick Derrey, ENZA coordinator for North America, said response from growers has been so enthusiastic that all trees are sold through 2012.
"It's just because of the grower interest in these managed varieties," he said. "There are only a few opportunities for plantings. One is to upgrade an existing variety with a better coloring strain, and the other is to get involved in one of these programs where there's a whole new variety coming out. There's a lot of interest in any new managed variety, whether it be an ENZA variety or other variety."
ENZA has set a cap on production of its varieties. For Envy, it is 1.5 million boxes for Washington, which means plantings will be limited to between 1,500 and 1,800 acres.
Its target production for Jazz in Washington is 1.5 million boxes and by 2010 there will be enough trees in the ground to produce that volume.
For Pacific Rose, the production target is 500,000 boxes only, and the last trees of Pacific Rose will be planted this spring. Derrey said Pacific Rose has proven to be a difficult variety to grow because of fruit finish problems and russeting in some climates, but it grows better in Washington than in New Zealand.
The production limits for all three varieties will be reviewed periodically by ENZA and the growers to determine if there's a need for additional acreage, he said.
Some growers are expanding their orchards with the ENZA varieties, while others are replacing other varieties, such as Braeburn, or even other fruits, such as grapes or pears. In some cases, growers are planting crops based on their labor situation, Derrey said.
"A lot of that goes into the decisions nowadays. It's not just the variety, but how it fits into your harvest schedule and how you manage your people. There's a whole lot more that goes into the decision than there used to be."
Jack Snyder, president of C & O Nursery in Wenatchee, Washington, said that while some nurseries are selling standard varieties, others may decide not to grow Red Delicious at all, other than for special orders. They'd rather use their rootstocks for more sought-after varieties.
"Everything costs so much, you're better off having market-demand–driven varieties that people are going to buy rather than something you're going to have to push through the system," he said. "If people have the ability to get involved in a new variety or a club or managed variety, that's shown a lot of interest."
Growers are traveling around the world looking at new varieties and becoming more internationally aware, he said. Europe has more than 30 managed varieties—far more than are available in the United States. He expects to see heightened interest in testing or growing European varieties after the annual conference of the International Fruit Tree Association in Berlin, Germany, which coincides with the Fruit Logistica trade fair.
"I imagine many people will come out of that show with some new ideas about varieties to see if they can at least test, if not grow them in the U.S.," he said.
Van Well, C & O, and Willow Drive are all members of the International Nursery Network, which has partnerships with nurseries and variety developers in Europe and access to several new varieties, including Rubens and Modi from Italy, Dalitron from France, and the Candy Fuji from New Zealand.