Good Fruit Grower

May 15

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Cherries Popular cultivar ALMOST WASN'T N ew tree fruit varieties can take decades before going mainstream and becoming popular with industry and consumers. Coral Champagne is a good example. The early sweet cherry variety that came out of the University of California's sweet cherry breeding program at Davis illustrates the time it can take before new varieties take root and the sometimes circuitous route to popularity. Last year, Coral Champagne was the third-leading sweet cherry variety shipped from California. Bing still dominates the variety list—more than 5.2 million boxes of the state's nearly 8.48 million boxes shipped in 2012 were Bing, according to data of the California Cherry Research and Marketing Board. But Coral Champagne, with more than 786,500 boxes shipped, has moved ahead of its cousin Brooks that tallied around 684,000 boxes. Tulare continues to be an important variety and ranked second with some 916,000 boxes shipped. Boxes are the equivalent of 18 pounds. Coral Champagne, though never officially released, is an alumnus with Brooks, a UC variety that was patented and released in 1984. Brooks has had a major impact on cherry production in California, helping expand sweet cherry production beyond traditional cherry-growing regions. The lower number of chilling hours needed for Brooks (400 compared to Bing's 700) and its propensity to produce fewer double fruits than Bing when grown in southern San Joaquin Valley allowed growers to expand cherry production to warmer areas of the valley. by Melissa Hansen Since the release of Brooks and Tulare cultivars, cherry acreage and production value has increased dramatically in Kern County, an area that includes Bakersfield, its county seat. Tulare is another low-chill, early variety patented in 1988 by Lowell Glen Bradford and Norman Glen Bradford of Le Grand, California. The most recent data compiled by the state's agricultural department (2011) showed that although Kern County has only 15 percent of the state's cherry acreage, it produced almost 50 percent of the value of the state's cherries. By hitting the season first, Kern County growers typically receive record-high cherry prices in both export and domestic markets. About half of the state's estimated 40,000 cherry acres are located in San Joaquin County, centered near Stockton, which produced about 20 percent of the state's total cherry value in 2011. Coral Champagne is the third most produced variety in California. Origin The origin of Coral Champagne is hazy due to incomplete or missing breeding records and the fade of time. Two selections called Coral and Champagne were once in the germplasm at UC's Wolfskill Experimental Orchard, according to Dr. Kitren Glozer, UC horticulturist. "That is not definitive, however, as there has been much misidentification over the years and the selection block currently standing isn't even the original selection block planted at Wolfskill," she said in an e-mail. Glozer added that the variety appears to have been bred in the 1950s, before cherry breeder Paul Hansche joined the UC breeding program. Hansche inherited the majority of the selections and did advanced selection and limited breeding work with the collection. "Brooks came out of this chain of events, and I believe that Coral or Coral Champagne did also." 28 May 15, 2013 GOOD FRUIT GROWER

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