Test trees are already in the ground throughout Washington’s apple-growing region, said Rick Derrey, ENZA coordinator for North America. Trees for commercial plantings are being propagated at Willow Drive Nursery in Ephrata, Washington, for planting in 2010. The first commercial Envy plantings in New Zealand will go in the ground a year earlier. ENZA is planning for a year-round supply by having production in both hemispheres.
Like Jazz, the new variety is a cross of Gala and Braeburn. However, it is larger, redder, and sweeter than Jazz, Derrey said. It’s a bicolored apple, but it tends to be redder than Jazz. “I would describe it as a blood-red stripe over a red background.”
Test plantings should indicate specific areas most suited for the variety, he said. It matures in Washington in mid-October.
Envy will be offered first to the 50 growers in Washington who are already producing ENZA varieties, such as Jazz and Pacific Rose, and to the three Washington packing houses handling those varieties. All ENZA varieties are marketed by Oppenheimer Group, based in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.
Derrey said Envy is not intended to replace Jazz, and he expects growers will produce both. “Jazz has a different profile,” he said. “We’re not intending it to be a replacement for anything else. It’s an additional variety. The plan right now is to introduce it into the program right along with everything else that’s going on in the program.”
ENZA set a production target for Jazz in Washington of 1.5 million boxes, and the last plantings of Jazz to meet that target will go in the ground in 2010, Derrey said. Jazz is still being planted in New Zealand, which has a production target of 3 million boxes. In Europe, the target is 1.5 million boxes.
Tom Auvil, a Jazz grower at Orondo, Washington, is planning to grow Envy, and considers it one of the better options. “We need to plant something. I would consider Ambrosia if we could consistently color it without cooling,” he said, explaining that the water at his orchard is so hard that it would leave white residues on the fruit.
Auvil said he hasn’t grown Envy yet but has seen fruit from second- or third-leaf test trees in Chelan and Brewster. “It has nice-size fruit, which is a real plus,” he commented. “But we have seen it one season. I’m not sure we have the ability to determine what it will be over time.”
It looks a little like Braeburn, but is a better quality apple, he said. “It’s a sweeter apple. It certainly doesn’t have the acid levels that Braeburn does.”
Envy will mature in his orchard in mid-October around the time of Granny Smith.
Scott Smith at Smith & Nelson in Tonasket, Washington, which is within 30 miles of the Canadian border, said he has Envy test trees in the ground, but has decided not to participate in the first commercial plantings because his orchards are so far north.
“We don’t know yet about the maturity of this apple and whether in our area we can bring it to maturity with it being very late,” he said. “We don’t know much about Envy yet.”
Smith said he liked the few apples that he’s eaten, but there is more to learn about growing the variety. “Our decision is to wait and make sure that from a horticultural standpoint we can grow the fruit.”
Smith said he went to New Zealand in 2001 and saw Pacific Rose being grown in the various growing districts. Some growers were more successful with it than others. It turned out to be a variety that could not be grown in all regions. Even in Washington, there were areas where it did not do as well.
“That’s why you have to be careful with these new varieties,” Smith said. “It may grow well in one area but not another.”
With the high establishment costs for a modern-day intensive orchard, it can be too risky to plant a variety without knowing for sure that it will perform well, he said. “I think that will always be a concern with any of these new varieties. I think for the new ones that will come out of the Washington State University program, that will be a question that a lot of growers will have. Can they grow it? Most of us have seen the apples, but not the trees. We know nothing about their characteristics. We haven’t seen them.”
A new variety must have attributes that enable it to succeed in the marketplace, but, in addition, growers must be able to produce it profitably, Smith said. “We can look at Honeycrisp, which we all think of as an example of an apple that’s accepted by the publicthey love that applewhereas growers are still struggling to produce it in adequate numbers. As growers, we don’t have the answers.”
Smith thinks that one of the greatest challenges for new varieties being developed by the many breeding programs around the world will be marketing. As more organic apples go onto the market, the number of items in the apple category continues to proliferate.
“They are not varieties that are unknown, but they present to the consumer a different product, and as far as the retailer’s concerned, they are apples,” he said. “How much space do they have in their store for apples? Is there room?”
Smith is convinced there is room for new varieties that are exceptional and have something new to offer the consumer, and that they won’t take the place of existing varieties in the short-term.
“We’re not going to bring a new variety in and really push anything out of the market in the near future. We’re still producing Galas, and we’ve been growing Galas for a long time. It takes a long time to establish a variety that’s going to become a mainstay.”
ENZA growers feel confident that they will be successful with Pacific Rose and Jazz, he said, although the volumes have been limited so far. Smith began planting Jazz in 2002 and is still planting it.
Regarding Envy’s prospects, Smith said he expects that variety backed by an established program like ENZA’s, which has already been marketing successful varieties, will have a better chance of succeeding than a variety from a new program.