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Sean Gilbert inspects a Cosmic Crisp tree on his orchard in Yakima, Wash.

Sean Gilbert inspects a Cosmic Crisp tree on his orchard in Yakima, Wash.

Photographer: Jenny Riffle for Bloomberg Businessweek
Businessweek
Economics

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Sean Gilbert surveys a two-year-old apple tree that’s head-high, a half-dozen branches growing off it at right angles. With the other trees planted at 3-foot intervals alongside, it’s part of what he hopes will be before long a lucrative wall of fruit.

If Gilbert lets nature take its course, the tree and thousands like it planted on this 20-acre orchard in Yakima, Wash., later this year will bear the first crop of Cosmic Crisp, which he and other growers in the state are calling a new blockbuster apple. If instead he chooses to interrupt the fruiting, he’ll be letting the tree reinvest its energy—think of it as the horticultural equivalent of compounding interest—into growing bigger and stronger faster, which may mean more fruit in the long term.