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Getting Licensed to Grow First Kiss™ and SweeTango® Apples

SweeTango® apples during a September
harvest. Photo: Annie Klodd
Authors: Annie Klodd, Jim Luby, David Bedford. Farms interested in growing University of Minnesota fruit varieties for the first time often ask good questions about which varieties require licensing, and how to get licensed. We outline that process here for each of the recent UMN apple releases: MN 55 (First Kiss™), Minneiska (SweeTango®), Honeycrisp, Minnewashta (Zestar!®), Frostbite and Wildung (SnowSweet®).

MN 55 (First Kiss™) and Minneiska (SweeTango®) are called "managed varieties." According to the UMN Minnesota Hardy website, this concept is fairly new in the US but is more common abroad. A license is required to grow the trees and sell the fruit, and there is a minimum tree number that must be planted. The goal of managed varieties is to facilitate quality standards in growing practices and site selection, to help maintain consistent high quality in the apples.

In contrast, Honeycrisp, Minnewashta (Zestar!®), Wildung (SnowSweet®), and Frostbite are not considered managed varieties, and can be grown without a license. Depending on the variety, however, it still may not be legal to propagate the trees. Read on for more information.

MN 55 (First Kiss™)

MN 55 was developed through traditional breeding as a cross between Honeycrisp and an Arkansas variety named AA-44. According to the University of Minnesota Technology Commercialization office: "The First Kiss™ brand name is reserved exclusively for fruit produced by apple growers located in Minnesota (apples from the MN55 variety grown outside of Minnesota are being marketed nationally as Rave®)." MN 55 apple trees are not available to the general public.

Fruit growers in Minnesota should visit the UMN Technology Commercialization website to fill out the MN 55/First Kiss™ Growers Application. The link to the application is near the bottom of the page, under "Commercialization and licensing for propagation."

After completing the application, a representative from the Technology Commercialization office will contact the applicant to begin the licensing process. There is a $200 license fee, which is paid online after completing the license application.

Growers may acquire and maintain the MN 55/First Kiss™ license if the following criteria are met:
SweeTango® trees at the
UMN Horticultural Research Center.
Photo: Annie Klodd

  1. The farm where the trees will be planted must be located in Minnesota.
  2. A minimum of 50 trees will be planted.
  3. The grower pays a tree planting fee of $1.25 per tree planted. This fee is invoiced by University of Minnesota to the grower the fall after the trees are received and planted.
  4. The grower pays the annual tree fee of $1.50 per tree, due starting the fourth year after planting and each year after. For example, if trees are planted in 2019, the annual fees begin in 2022.

The license agreement allows growers to contact several licensed nurseries to place orders for tree propagation. Tree orders may only be placed with nurseries licensed by the University of Minnesota to propagate the MN 55 variety; the license does not allow growers to propagate the -trees themselves.

Minneiska (SweeTango®)

Fruit growers in Minnesota wishing to acquire a license to grow and sell Minneiska/SweeTango® must contact Pepin Heights Orchards. In order to be directed to the appropriate person, call their main number and indicate that you are looking for information on getting licensed to grow Minneiska trees. The licenses are only available to commercial apple growers, and growers must plant at least 50 trees. It will be a few more years until the trees will be available to the general public, as the patent expires in 2026.
Honeycrisp orchard on dwarf
rootstocks. Photo: Annie Klodd

Honeycrisp and Minnewashta (Zestar®)

For Honeycrisp and Minnewashta (Zestar!®), licenses are not required to grow or propagate the trees. Growers and home gardeners may purchase these trees from any of the many nurseries carrying them. Additionally, because the plant patents for Honeycrisp and Minnewashta have expired in the United States, growers are free to propagate these varieties without needing to acquire a license from the University of Minnesota.

Here is a list of nurseries that carry Honeycrisp and/or Zestar!®.

Wildung (SnowSweet®)

Farmers and home gardeners alike can grow the trees of this variety without a license, but they cannot propagate them on their own. Fortunately, there are many nurseries carrying Wildung (SnowSweet®) trees.

Authors: Annie Klodd, Jim Luby, David Bedford. Reviewed by BJ Haun, UMN Office of Technology Commercialization.

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