Since 1994, Washington State University has strived to develop new apple cultivars with outstanding eating quality as quickly as possible. After 15 years, the WSU apple breeding program is releasing its first apple cultivar. The apple, currently known as WA 2, has outstanding eating quality, appearance, and productivity, and, therefore, the potential to be a successful cultivar in Washington State.

It is attractive, with an orange-red to pinkish-red blush (70 to 90 percent of the skin surface) over a yellow background, and has large and conspicuous lenticels that usually make it easily distinguishable from other cultivars and add to its overall pleasing appearance. The fruit is round and medium to large, usually being larger than Gala, comparable to Braeburn, and smaller than Fuji.

The fruit has outstanding texture, being very firm, crisp, and juicy, and loses very little firmness in storage and on the shelf. Fruit of WA 2 ripens in late September or early October and is suited to the fresh market. It has the potential to be a commercial cultivar both directly off the tree and out of medium- and long-term storage.

OriginWA 2 originated from seed collected in 1994, the first year of the WSU breeding program. Its female parent is Splendour. Although its male parent is not known for certain, it is probably Gala. The seedling tree was selected in 2001 based on its fruit quality and propagated for second-test trials, which were planted at three sites in central Washington in 2004. Orchard trials with larger numbers of trees on Malling 9 rootstock were planted in 2007 at four commercial orchard sites in central Washington. Extensive fruit quality data collected over more than six seasons from the original seedling tree, from second-test trees, and from orchard (grower) trials revealed the very high eating quality of WA 2.

Fruit quality of WA 2 in comparison with Gala, Fuji, Braeburn, and Cripps Pink was evaluated at the three second-test sites (“Apple quality in a typical year” table). WA 2 fruit is very firm, both at harvest and after 60 days of regular cold storage (34 F). It is comparable to Cripps Pink and Braeburn and firmer than Gala and Fuji. Fruit of WA 2 is sweet with soluble solids greater than for Gala and Braeburn and comparable to Fuji and Cripps Pink. Fruit acidity level (sourness) of WA 2 is intermediate, falling between the low-acidity cultivars Gala and Fuji and the high-acidity cultivars Braeburn and Cripps Pink. Therefore, the overall flavor (sugar/acid ratio) is intermediate and can be described as well-balanced or sweet-tart.

More than 170 volunteer tasters at the December 2006 and 2007 Washington State Horticultural Association meetings compared WA 2 with several promising WSU selections. After tasters rated each for firmness, crispness, juiciness, sweetness and acidity, WA 2 received the highest overall eating quality ratings in both years.

Fruit sensory evaluation, conducted by Dr. Carolyn Ross at the Department of Food Science and Nutrition, WSU, Pullman, with a trained panel, and an untrained consumer panel evaluated fruit of WA 2, Fuji, and nine other WSU selections after four months in regular-atmosphere storage. Attributes evaluated were sweetness, sourness, apple flavor intensity, firmness, crispness, juiciness, and overall preference. Panelists preferred WA 2 to Fuji overall and scored WA 2 highest on firmness, juiciness, and crispness.

Production and tree characteristicsWA 2 trees have an intermediate growth habit and vigor, being neither a spur type like Delicious, nor a tip bearer like Granny Smith. WA 2 trees produce abundant bloom and set good crops. In the three-site second-test trials, early yields have been consistently high and comparable to Gala and Fuji (“Apple production data” table). Although not resistant to powdery mildew and fireblight, WA 2 shows only moderate susceptibility.

The first trees will be available for planting in spring 2010 following the release procedure established by the master licensee, the Washington Tree Fruit Research Commission, and outlined in the October issue (page 17) of Good Fruit Grower. We believe WA 2 has the potential to be a mainstream cultivar in central Washington. It is an improvement over many existing cultivars in its eating quality, particularly its firm and crisp texture and its balanced flavor. Consumers like eating WA 2!