Ten years of studies on systems to modify sweet cherry production environments: retractable roofs, high tunnels, and rain-shelters
Sweet cherry (Prunus avium) production is limited in many areas of the world by key climatic factors. The most important is untimely rain during the growing season, which can cause fruit cracking during Stage III development and ripening as well as providing critical environmental conditions for cherry leaf spot (Blumeriella jaapii) infection and dissemination of Pseudomonas syringae, the causal agent of bacterial canker. Research at Michigan State University that began in 2005 with high tunnel production of cherries has demonstrated significant protection from these environmental challenges, and recent research has expanded evaluation of other methods for environmental modification, utilizing two types of automated retractable roof structures and passively-vented tent-like polyethylene rain shelters. Each of these systems have strengths and weaknesses relative to aerial- and soil-based rain cracking processes, plant water relations for growth and fruit quality, spring frost protection potential, heat retention for advancing bloom and fruit development, as well as heat dissipation to minimize negative impacts on fruit quality parameters like fruit firmness. Research also has focused on increasing protected environment space efficiencies through complementary development of suitable high density training systems and fixed solid-set (vs. tractor-based) spray technologies. The multiple potential benefits and limitations for each protective covering system and associated complementary orchard technologies is summarized.
Lang, G.A., Sage, L. and Wilkinson, T. (2016). Ten years of studies on systems to modify sweet cherry production environments: retractable roofs, high tunnels, and rain-shelters. Acta Hortic. 1130, 83-90
Prunus avium, protected culture, rootstocks, fruit cracking, fruit quality, diseases, frost protection