Good Fruit Grower

May 15

Issue link:

Contents of this Issue


Page 35 of 55

N ew "prairie" cherry varieties from Dr. Bob Bors's fruit breeding program at University of Saskatchewan haven't yet cracked into the really big production areas, but are having a significant local effect. Bors said the dark red sour cherries sell like hot- cakes in farmers' markets in Canada's prairie prov- ince. "Local growers are getting good money for the cherries—$5 and even $10 for a liter box," he said. Part of his mission is to supply locally grown fruit in an area that is much too cold for commercial orchards and vineyards. But he'd really like to bring his unique cherries into the larger world of commercial production, in North America and in Europe. The six named Romance-series varieties and some yet to be released have been planted in Michigan at the Clarksville Experiment Station, joining a collection of varieties being observed by Michigan State University cherry breeder Dr. Amy Iezzoni. But the prairie cherries face some hurdles if they are to capture the hearts of commercial tart cherry growers. First, the cherries aren't like Montmorency, the dominant tart cherry variety com- mercially grown in Michigan and a few other states—Washington, New York, Penn- sylvania, Wisconsin, Utah, and Oregon—and also in Ontario. That variety has clear flesh and a light red skin and is quite tart. The cherries from Bors's program resulted from crosses of European varieties, which are sweeter amd have dark red skin and flesh, and varieties from cen- tral Asia, chosen because they are winter hardy. In his area of Canada around Saskatoon, winter temperatures fall below -40˚F five to ten nights a year, Bors said. The temperature dropped to -52˚F one year, and routinely reaches -20˚F. Bors is pretty sure the varieties won't be hurt by winters elsewhere. Still, he's evaluating how well they will survive spring frosts. "Weather progresses from cold to warm pretty fast here," he said. "We have fewer late spring frosts than Michigan does." Darker, sweeter In Michigan, growers had shown some interest in growing dark red varieties and planted a Hungarian variety called Balaton. However, that variety has been plagued with low yields caused by poor pollination, a problem they have yet to solve. As the tart cherry industry moves away from desserts and pie filling toward more dried and juice products, Bors believes the Saskatchewan cherries will be attrac- tive because they are sweeter and darker. While Mont- morency cherries have a Brix of about 14, the Romance cherries in Bors's program are at least 16. The sweetest one, Crimson Passion, can reach 25 Brix at full ripeness. Machine harvest Bors believes his cherries might find a better niche in Europe. In Poland, a large producer of tart cherries, growers like their dark red, sweeter varieties, and they have also moved toward over-the-row mechanical harvesting, treating cherries more like bush or vine crops, such as blueberries, caneberries, and grapes. That's being tried in Michigan. Last year, one grower used a blueberry harvester to harvest cherries from Montmorency trees he had pruned to a shorter, bush- ier shape and planted in hedgerows. Other growers are 36 MAY 15, 2014 GOOD FRUIT GROWER Cherries Prairie cherries Tart cherries from Saskatchewan are still on track to play larger role. by Richard Lehnert "Local growers are getting good money for the cherries." —Bob Bors

Articles in this issue

Links on this page

Archives of this issue

view archives of Good Fruit Grower - May 15