Partnering with producers and consumers to enhance cultivar and rootstock selections
Since the 1990s, world sweet cherry production has increased significantly, causing occasional overproduction. In the Pacific Northwest of the United States, overproduction resulted in low returns to growers in 2009 and 2012. Returns in 2009 to Oregon growers in Wasco County Oregon, the largest production area in the state, were US$ 0.77 kg-1 in contrast to US$ 2.88 in 2008, a more favorable year. Overplanting when crop values are high frequently occurs in agriculture and scientists can do little to prevent it. However, scientists are directly involved in characterizing the traits of cultivars and rootstocks, critical information that growers use in their planting decisions. In a saturated market, producers need cultivars with traits that will encourage multiple consumer purchases throughout the season. Determining consumer trait preferences is the first step in releasing new cultivars that encourage repeat buying. Traits desired by growers also must be taken into consideration. New cultivars must produce large, firm fruit that resists rain-cracking and arrives well in distant markets after several weeks in shipment. The new cherry breeding program at Washington State University, partially funded by Washington and Oregon growers, is a program that utilizes two advisory groups, one comprised of scientists and the other of growers. Both groups help guide the direction of the program. For cultivars and rootstocks released from other programs, Pacific Northwest growers must know how these will perform under local conditions. In addition to the usual attributes of fruit size, firmness and total soluble solids content, cultivars are evaluated for pedicel-fruit retention force, rain-crack resistance and potential for pitting in storage. Rootstocks are evaluated to determine performance with cultivars of low, moderate, and high productivity and with common training systems. This information allows scientists to partner with growers to reduce grower risk while potentially increasing grower profit.
Long, L.E., Kaiser, C. and Brewer, L.J. (2017). Partnering with producers and consumers to enhance cultivar and rootstock selections. Acta Hortic. 1161, 221-230
Prunus avium, consumer preference, cultivars, rootstocks, training systems