The latest release from WSU, WA 38, is an eye-catching, large, dark red apple with a remarkably firm, crisp, and juicy texture. It also has exceptional flavor with ample sweetness and enough tartness to impart real character. When it comes to the combination of taste, texture, and beauty, WA 38 has no equal in today’s marketplace—not Cripps Pink, not Jazz, and not Honeycrisp.
Its outstanding eating quality, based on evaluations from 2003 to 2011, is evident when the apple is eaten directly off the tree or after medium- or long-term storage. Unlike many existing varieties, it has little reduction in quality, particularly firmness, after several months in regular storage. Therefore, it is suited to the fresh market from harvest in late September through long-term storage. As a bonus, its nonbrowning flesh will also create opportunities for use in fresh-cut packaging and fruit salads.
WA 38 comes from WSU’s apple breeding program which was started in 1994 by Dr. Bruce Barritt at the Tree Fruit Research and Extension Center in Wenatchee and has been managed by Dr. Kate Evans since 2008. It originates from a cross between Enterprise and Honeycrisp made in 1997. The seedling tree was selected in 2003 and propagated in 2004 for Phase 2 trials at three central Washington sites. Additional trees were propagated for larger-scale Phase 3 trial plantings in 2008 at four commercial orchards in central Washington.
The WA 38 tree is upright and spreading with moderately low vigor. It is precocious, with spur development beginning on two-year-old wood. Yield is within the range of other locally grown apple cultivars. Although not resistant to powdery mildew and fireblight, it appears, from field observations, to have only moderate susceptibility.
Fruit of WA 38 ripens in late September. The apple is large and round/conical with 90 to 100% of the surface covered with a red-purple blush over a green-yellow background. Skin finish is excellent with little russet or bitter pit and no apparent sunburn when grown in the apple-growing regions of central Washington. Greening in the stem cavity can occur some seasons, but this rarely detracts from the overall appearance and does not influence eating quality.
Instrumental measurements of fruit size, firmness, soluble solids (sweetness), and acidity (tartness) of WA 38 fruit compare favorably with standard cultivars. Empirical data from several locations and multiple harvests per locations are presented for three representative seasons: 2009, 2010, and 2011 (Table 1). For fruit size, WA 38 is larger than Fuji, Braeburn, and WA 2, and considerably larger than Gala and Cripps Pink. For fruit firmness (pressure), WA 38 is intermediate: It is less firm than Cripps Pink, comparable to WA 2 and Braeburn, and considerably firmer than Fuji and Gala. Soluble solids of WA 38 are midrange, being lower than for Fuji, WA 2, and Cripps Pink, and comparable to Gala and Braeburn. WA 38 is more tart than Gala, WA 2 and Fuji, comparable to Braeburn, and less tart than Cripps Pink.
Sensory evaluations of crispness, juiciness, and hardness show the exceptional eating characteristics of WA 38. Observations in 2010 for fruit from several locations and harvest dates are representative of many years of tasting both fresh and stored fruit (Table 2). Sensory evaluation of hardness (the force needed to bite the apple) show WA 38 to be intermediate—less hard than WA 2, Braeburn, and Cripps Pink, and comparable to Fuji and Gala. WA 38 fruit is more crisp than Gala, Fuji, Braeburn, and Cripps Pink. Juiciness of WA 38 is impressive, being greater than WA 2, Gala, Fuji, Braeburn, and Cripps Pink. When sensory comparisons are made with Honeycrisp, WA 38 is harder and has similar crispness and juiciness.
Consumer evaluations by Dr. Carolyn Ross, Department of Food Science and Nutrition, WSU, were carried out in 2009 with WA 38 fruit after four months in regular air storage, along with several other breeding selections and Fuji as a standard (all from the same storage regime). WA 38 was rated higher than Fuji for overall acceptance, as well for flavor intensity, crispness, firmness, and juiciness.
WA 38 fruit from controlled-atmosphere storage and treated with MCP (1-methylcyclopropene) was presented to consumers in Spokane, Washington, in March, 2012, for a direct paired preference test with Gala (also CA stored and 1-MCP treated). The WA 38 fruit was preferred overall by consumers and significantly preferred for the attributes of appearance and texture.
It is the breeder’s goal that each new apple variety must have at least one, but hopefully several, competitive advantages. A status quo variety, although new, will not be commercially successful for growers, packer-shippers, or consumers. Fortunately, WA 38 has several advantages for all three groups.
First, for growers, WA 38 has a high packout thanks to 90 to 100% red color, large size, and absence of sunburn, russet, or bitter pit. It also matures mid-season. Second, for packer-shippers, WA 38 has the combination of high packout, leading to efficiencies in the warehouse, and good firmness and suitability for long-term storage. Third, for consumers, WA 38 combines excellent shelf-life, firmness, crispness, and juiciness with a full and well-balanced flavor, attractive appearance, and nonbrowning flesh. These advantages also extend to marketers and retailers.
We can compare WA 38 with three of the highest-paying and highest-quality varieties produced today. In comparison with Cripps Pink, WA 38 is more crisp, juicier, and larger, has nonbrowning flesh, and is harvested earlier before the danger of hard fall freezes. In comparison with Jazz, WA 38 is larger, has more red color and nonbrowning flesh, and is available to all Washington growers. WA 38 is generally comparable with Honeycrisp (one of its parents) in crispness, juiciness, and flavor but has greater color and firmness, nonbrowning flesh, a longer storage life, and does not develop bitter pit.
The release strategy for WA 38 is still to be determined and will be reported in a later edition of Good Fruit Grower. The WSU Research Foundation has applied for a plant patent. Certified virus-tested mother trees are established at five Washington nurseries in preparation for propagation of commercial trees.The authors acknowledge the financial support of WSU and the Washington Tree Fruit Research Commission.