Good Fruit Grower

May 15

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Cherries Early Robin, early blush E crop. Early Robin is a blush cherry that looks similar to Rainier but ripens one to two weeks earlier. It is being marketed as an early Rainier-type cherry. "Anecdotally, it appears people are planting the snot out of it," said Zillah, Washing- ton, orchardist Mark Hanrahan, who planted his first Early Robins six years ago and put more in this spring as part of his ongoing orchard update. Until lately, growers could get twice the return for Rainiers that they could for dark, sweet cherries. That's helped fuel more plantings, but there's a danger of having a glut of Rainiers that all hit the market at the same time, Hanrahan said. "That's why Early Robin is going to be so important to The new blushed cherry variety helps secure shelf space for Rainiers. by Geraldine Warner us as an industry, because it's seven days before Rainier," Hanrahan said. "That's why people are planting agres- sively with Early Robins. Early Robin is going to become an extremely important variety in this industry. There's such a consumer pull for them." Mild flavor The variety was discovered in about 1990 by Robin Doty, who noticed that fruit on one tree in his Rainier cherry orchard at Mattawa, Washington, matured seven to ten days earlier than other trees in the block. The fruit was large, firm, and sweet, and had a heart-shaped appearance, a mild flavor, and a semifreestone pit, unlike typical Rainier cherries. Doty contacted several nurseries. Some said they thought it was unlikely to compete with Rainier, but John Renick at Columbia Basin Nursery in Quincy, Washington, was enthused about the new cherry and helped him develop it as a variety and get it patented in 2003. Columbia Basin Nursery in Quincy and Willow Drive Nursery in Ephrata, Washington, share the master license for the variety. Doty named it Early Robin, not just because of his own name, but because robins in the orchard were always attracted to that tree, as it had fruit earlier than the rest of the Rainier trees. "They loved to eat that one," he recalled. "It was the only thing ripe at that time." Strong demand A Washington tree fruit survey in 2010 "Compared to Rainier, we're growing over double the number of Early showed there were just 199 acres of Early Robin in the state, compared with 4,000 acres of Rainier, but nurseries have been seeing strong demand for Early Robin and are taking orders for 2014. "We've been growing it in good volume," said Neal Manly, chief marketing officer at Willow Drive Nursery. "Compared to Rainier, we're growing over double the number of Early Robin right now." The variety has been available for nine years, but Manly thinks grow- ers are now taking another look at it as a way to spread out their market- ing window. "It's a good piece of fruit and colors nicely," he said. "There's some real positive benefits about it." 34 MAY 15, 2012 GOOD FRUIT GROWER Robin right now." —Neal Manly arly Robin looks set to become an important variety in the Pacific Northwest, as growers try to get a jump on the blushed-cherry deal. The Rainier cherry now makes up about 10 percent of the Northwest cherry

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