PROSSER – In order to remain competitive in the global market, the world’s biggest sweet cherry producers have banded together to drive innovation along the entire production chain.
 
The molecules-to-market project, called “a total systems approach to developing a sustainable, stem-free sweet cherry production, processing and marketing system,” is just completing its first year of research.
 
The project has launched a new website, http://sweetcherryresearch.wsu.edu, which features research news, videos, photos and the 2010 annual report.
 
The project’s goals include:
 
  • Developing high efficiency, productive angled fruiting wall orchard systems (for easier harvest);
  • Establishing the genetic bases for sweet cherry abscission (separation of fruit from stem);
  • Improving labor efficiency and safety by developing mechanical and/or mechanical assist harvest technologies;
  • Extending the shelf life and increasing consumer appeal of sweet cherries;
  • Analyzing system profitability and market potential and developing economic models for outreach and adoption.

 

Milestones reached in 2010 include:

  • Establishment of test orchards in California, Oregon and Washington;
  • Phenotyping of cherry cultivars and advanced breeding selections for pedicel-fruit retention force and fruit texture and flavor attributes;
  • Documented expression of known abscission genetic pathways in sweet cherry;
  • Field testing of an upgraded mechanical harvester and other mechanical assistance equipment.

 

The four-year project is funded by a U.S. Department of Agriculture Special Crop Research Initiative grant. Participating collaborators include Washington State University, Oregon State University, Michigan State University, the University of California and Picker Technologies.