Good Fruit Grower

May 15

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PHOTO COURTESY OF DavE WilSOn nURSERY Coral Champagne cherries ripen after Chelan and about ten days before Bing. Hansche joined UC's cherry breeding program in the 1960s and made cherry crosses for several years before the program was discontinued in the early 1970s. However, UC researchers and others continued to evaluate Hansche's crosses long after he left. Ross Sanborn, UC Extension farm advisor for Contra Costa County, worked closely with Hansche in evaluating UC selections and is said to have given germplasm away to nurseries and possibly growers. Sanborn is credited for discovering and naming Coral Champagne. The actual source of the germplasm Hansche used is unknown and may have come from bud wood cut from the original seedling block or from one or more plantings in advanced selection blocks. "The bud wood may have been from a single clone, or multiple clones, and since the items sold from the various nurseries have not been genotyped, we don't really know if they are the same or not," said Glozer. Search for early WIDELY planted C oral Champagne has been the hottest selling cherry variety in California in recent years, according to accounts from nurseries, brokers, and growers. Dave Wilson Nursery, a commercial tree fruit nursery headquartered in Hickman, California, reports that Coral Champagne has led their cherry tree sales in the last eight years. A Sacramento, California, fruit tree broker and nursery representative agreed with Dave Wilson Nursery's assessment, as well as growers and other industry members. "It's been widely popular because it's earlier than Bing, requires low chilling, has a rosy red color and wonderful flavor," said Dave Wilson Nursery's Stacy Anderson. "Coral Champagne has really taken off in my area," said Janet Caprile, UC Extension farm advisor for Contra Costa County. She estimated that half of the acreage in her county is planted to Coral Champagne, and much of what's been planted in the Sacramento Delta region is Coral Champagne. Stockton's Jeff Colombini, grower and president of Lodi Farming Company, said lots of growers are still planting Coral Champagne. Both Anderson and Henry Sanguinetti, Sacramento fruit tree broker and nursery representative, are working with a handful of growers testing small trials of Coral Champagne trees in the Pacific Northwest. Sanguinetti's Northwest trials are about seven years old, and the blocks appear to be producing well. "Most of the growers like the variety," he said, noting that a few large Northwest growers are planning to expand their small trials. "More and more growers in the Northwest are trying Coral Champagne," Anderson said. "From what I see, it could be a nice cherry for the Northwest." For now, Coral Champagne has cornered the cherry tree market in California, and sales don't appear to be slowing down—until the next best variety is developed. "With all the trees that have been sold, I expect Coral Champagne will soon surpass production of Tulare, and eventually Bing," Anderson said. —M. Hansen Contra Costa farm advisor Janet Caprile succeeded Sanborn in 1989 when he retired. "Ross had a good relationship with cherry breeder Hansche and routinely planted his numbered selections in Brentwood," she said in a phone interview with Good Fruit Grower. In the late 1970s, Sanborn was looking for early cherries for Brentwood growers so they could more effectively compete with their Stockton counterparts. Brentwood is located about 35 miles east of Stockton and has similar growing conditions. Caprile added that Sanborn saw promise in the early maturing Brooks and a numbered selection. "By the end of the 1980s, he had given the numbered selection the name of Coral Champagne," she said. It's not clear if UC or Sanborn sought to patent the Coral Champagne variety. Some say that once UC had patented Brooks, the university focused attention on its next most promising variety and attempted to patent Coral Champagne. Others recall that Sanborn tried to patent the selection. Regardless, the selection had been so widely distributed that the federal patent office denied the application. Henry Sanguinetti, a fruit tree broker from Sacramento, recalled that Coral Champagne almost never made it. "After playing with it for eight years, Sanborn thought it a failure," he said in a phone interview. Sanborn had been planting the selection on Mahaleb rootstock and the trees were overcropped and the fruit matured late. "Next, Marty Vitale, a nursery manager, used it as a pollenizer for Brooks and Tulare in Bakersfield orchards for six to eight years," said Sanguinetti. "But on precocious rootstock, it didn't size well, so it got nearly killed down again." Once the variety was teamed with the less precocious rootstocks Mazzard and Colt it began to do well, he noted. "It's only been in the last eight years or so that Coral Champagne has been recognized as a sought-after variety," Sanguinetti said. "Retailers began requesting the variety and in the last five to six years, it's become the most widely planted variety in California." • GOOD FRUIT GROWER May 15, 2013 29

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