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Fuji is the top apple variety being planted in Washington State. Red Fuji and early Fuji varieties together account for 22 percent of the trees that nurseries have budded for planting in 2008, according to a nursery survey by Tree Top, Inc.

Many growers are replacing older Fuji orchards with higher coloring Fuji strains as well as planting new acreage, reports Lindsay Buckner, Tree Top’s senior vice president for field services.

Gala plantings have been slowing down. About 14 percent of the trees to be planted next spring are Gala. Plantings peaked in 1998, when every third tree sold was Gala. However, the tree numbers do not reflect the fact that many orchards have been grafted over to Gala, Buckner notes.

Another 14 percent of the trees that will be planted next spring are Honeycrisp, which is rapidly gaining acceptance in the market. It has been in the top three most-popular varieties planted in Washington State since 2004. Although difficult to grow, Honeycrisp commands high prices. Buckner expects plantings to continue at the same level for the next few years.

Granny Smith plantings have remained fairly stable. The popular variety accounts for 12 percent of trees planted in 2007. All packing houses include Granny Smith in their varietal mix. The variety is grower friendly and has generated steady returns for growers. Demand for Washington State Granny Smiths has strengthened over the past few years as fruit orchards have been removed from California, Buckner reports.

Cripps Pink has accounted for between 2 and 3 percent of nursery trees for the past few years. Its long growing season has resulted in late-season freeze damage in later districts during the past few years, and several large blocks in the state have been impacted by fireblight, the survey report states.

Just over 3 percent of the trees planted in 2007 were Cameo. The percentage is expected to drop to less than 2 percent for 2008.

Miscellaneous varieties, which include club varieties such as Jazz and Ambrosia, rose to 28 percent of the total trees planted, which is the largest percentage for this category since the survey began in 1986.

3.8 million trees

About 3.8 million apple trees were sold for planting last spring, the largest number since 2000. The survey shows a continued shift to higher-density plantings. Almost 88 percent of the apple trees budded for sale next year are on dwarfing rootstocks and will be planted at a density of more than 500 trees per acre. In comparison, only 20 percent of the trees planted in 1986 were in high-density systems, and 42 percent were planted at densities of 200 trees per acre or less.

For the survey, Buckner compiled responses from seven major nurseries that produce a high percentage of commercial nursery trees sold in the Pacific Northwest.