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Breeding Program – Apple

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The Washington State University apple breeding program began in 1994 to develop new varieties suited to the unique climate of central Washington and that are available to Washington growers. Washington is the leading apple producing state with over 60 percent of U.S. production. Unfortunately, many of the new varieties developed in the world are not well adapted to growing conditions in central Washington or available to the majority of Washington growers.

The goal is to produce apples of an improved eating quality, particularly focusing on outstanding texture and storability. The WSU apple breeding program is a conventional breeding program, hybridizing parents with desirable traits. Promising seedlings are selected from large populations and their fruit is evaluated in the laboratory for eating quality and suitability for long-term storage. This program was one of the 12 core US breeding programs of the SCRI RosBREED project, ‘Enabling  Marker-Assisted Breeding in Rosaceae’.

Recent Releases

Cosmic Crisp® WA 38, is the newest WSU apple variety.
Cosmic Crisp® WA38, is the newest WSU apple variety.

The WSU apple breeding program recently released Cosmic Crisp® WA38 an eye-catching, large, dark red apple with a remarkably firm, crisp, and juicy texture that also stores well. The apple has outstanding eating quality, exceptional flavor, ample sweetness, and sufficient tartness to impart real character. Our feeling is that when it comes to the combination of taste, texture, and beauty, the Cosmic Crisp® WA38 apple has no equal in today’s marketplace. The first commercial trees were planted in 2017.  Visit here for more information about this new cultivar.

There are several online resources for learning more about Cosmic Crisp® WA38. The primary source for information is the dedicated Cosmic Crisp™ WA 38 website. Many Good Fruit Grower articles have been written about this apple discussing various aspects of both the fruit itself and on growing the trees. The Tree Fruit Team has also produced a great YouTube video featuring Dr. Kate Evans, Dr. Stefano Musacchi, Tom Auvil and Dave Allan: “Cosmic Crisp® WA38 Field Days”. Additional information can be found in the Cosmic Crisp® WA38 factsheet and in this preliminary horticultural research report.

WA 2 was the first WSU apple variety released to Washington growers.
Sunrise Magic® WA2 was the first WSU apple variety released to Washington growers.

Previous Releases

Cosmic Crisp® WA38 is only the most recent variety released by the WSU apple breeding program. The first release from the program, ‘WA 2’, was offered to Washington State growers for evaluation in December 2009 because of its outstanding eating quality, appearance, and extremely long storage life. This variety has recently been released as ‘Sunrise Magic® WA2′. View the press release here.  Visit here to learn more about Sunrise Magic® WA2.

WA 5 is an attractive, medium sized variety with excellent texture and a balanced sugar/acid ratio.
WA 5 is an attractive, medium sized variety with excellent texture and a balanced sugar/acid ratio.

Following on the heels ofSunrise Magic® WA2 was ‘WA5’ in 2011. Visit here to learn more about ‘WA 5’. Several other elite selections have been planted in commercial grower trials in central Washington.

The principal investigator for the WSU apple breeding program is Dr. Kate Evans, located at the Tree Fruit Research and Extension Center in Wenatchee, WA. To learn more about this program and new WSU apple varieties visit the apple breeding website.

To learn more about the selection process watch our YouTube video “Fruit Testing at the WSU Apple Breeding Program,” with Dr. Kate Evans and the tree fruit breeding program team at WSU-TFREC.

WSU scientists completed the genetic map for apples in 2013. This new found wealth of information should help the process of breeding better apples. Read more about this at WSU Reconnect: “The STEM in your Apple.”


Washington State University