Red Delicious dethroned; Gala takes over

Chart shows apple acreages by variety.

OLYMPIA – Red Delicious, long the king of Washington apples, has been dethroned.

Last fall, relative newcomer Gala outpaced the Red Delicious in harvest.

According to the Washington State Tree Fruit Association, Gala made up about 24 percent of the 2018 crop, with Red Delicious at 21.5 percent.

The Oct. 1, 2018, statewide crop estimate was for 116.9 million 40-pound boxes of apples, down from a previous estimate of 131 million boxes forecast Aug. 1. Actual harvest figures were not available from the tree fruit association, which tracks crop size.

When industry officials announced last fall that Gala was unseating the iconic, deep red, five-bumped Red Delicious that had reigned for more than 50 years, the news made headlines nationwide.

Gala is a sweet, red-orange, striped apple that is a cross between a Golden Delicious and a Kidd’s Orange Red, and was planted in New Zealand in the 1930s. It was introduced to the market 9n 1965; a U.S. plant patent was obtained in 1974.

The latest Washington Tree Fruit Acreage Report, based on 2017 figures, was released recently and tracks with the atree fruit association’s figures showing Red Delicious is now No. 2.

The report was compiled by the U.S. Department of Agriculture National Agricultural Statistics Service’s Northwest regional field office.

According to the survey, there were 121,175 acres of Red Delicious apples in the state in 1986. In 2017, there were 39,207. Gala accounted for 230 acres in 1986 and 41,036 in 2017.

As with its rosy cousin, the Golden Delicious also saw a hefty decline in those three decades, going from 22,665 acres in 1986 to 7,760 acres in 2017. Another other big mover was Granny Smith, which climbed from 8,220 acres in 1986 to a peak of 23,593 acres in 2006 and then went into decline, accounting for 16,267 acres in 2017.

Among the players that weren’t even on the map in 1986 but were in 2017 were Cripps Pink (Pink Lady), 8,923 acres in 2017; Fuji/Red Fuji, 28,718, and Honeycrisp, 22,616.

Total apple acreage statewide in 1986 was 160,980. After an increase to 192,000 in 2001 and then a drop to 167,489 in 2011, planted acreage climbed again. In 2017, there were 179,146 acres of apples.

Sweet cherries showed similar up-and-down movement with varieties, although Bing, long a leader among cherries, continued its strong numbers, according to the survey.

In 1986, there were 9,895 acres of Bings – the most of any sweet cherry in the state – and in 2017 there were 22,275 acres.

Lambert, the No. 2 cherry in 1986, barely registered in 2017, dropping to 297 acres.

Big movers over the decades were Chelan, Rainier, Skeena and Sweetheart. Only Rainier made the 1986 survey, at 815 acres. It was at 3,073 acres in 2017.

The survey showed Chelan at 4,193 acres, Skeena at 2,468 acres and Sweetheart as the No. 2 cherry, acreage-wise, at 4,462 acres.

Total sweet cherry acreage statewide increased from 13,925 acres in 1986 to 42,198 acres in 2017.

For pears, total acreage went from 25,750 in 1986 to 20,965 in 2017. Bartletts and d’Anjou continued to be the big dogs in the room.

Total Bartlett acreage – including Bartlett, Red Bartlett, Starkrimson and others – went from 13,010 in 1986 to 8,631 in 2017. For d’Anjou, there were 10,260 acres in 1986 and 9,292 acres combined of d’Anjou/Red d’Anjou in 2017.

Bosc came in at No. 3 on both surveys, with 1,735 acres in 1986 and 2,160 acres in 2017.

The 2017 survey was supported by all of the state’s major fruit organizations and includes all operations thought to have five or more acres or tree fruit or one or more acres of grapes, said USDA officials. The list sample included more than 2,900 operations.

Information was collected by mail, telephone and personal interview. More than 11,450 individual blocks of fruit information were tabulated from approximately 1,300 growers who reported one or more blocks of tree fruit or grapes.

As with the 2011 survey, respondents were asked to provide the number of certified organic acres and those in transition to organic.

Data included in “other varieties” included varieties with minimal acreage, unknown varieties or varieties not published to avoid disclosure of individual operations.

Varieties of apples reported but not published include Akane, Breeze, Cosmic Crisp, Crimson Gold, Ginger Gold, Golden Supreme, Gravenstein, Jonathan, Juici, Kiku, Macoun, Minneiska, Mutsu, Newtown, North Spy, Pinata, Pinova, Rome, Smitten, Sport, Sweetie, Winesap and Winter Banana.

Varieties of sweet cherries reported but not published included Black Tartatian, Index, Kiona, Regina, Royal Ann, Selah, Sonata and Staccato.

Pears reported but not published included Kalle, Red Clapp, Red Sansation and Seckel.

Some varieties of apricots, nectarines, peaches, prunes, plums and tart cherries also were included but not published.

Pluot acreage data was collected in 2017. Total acreage statewide was estimated at 33 acres with 9,792 trees.

The report is available online.

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