Research expands on little cherry disease

Washington and Oregon commissions have allocated $765,000 from grower assessments for cherry research in 2014 with a new focus on little cherry disease.
Dan Wheat

Capital Press

Published on January 10, 2014 10:50AM

WENATCHEE, Wash. — Little cherry disease and continued cherry breeding are among research projects recently funded for 2014 by the Washington Tree Fruit Research Commission and the Oregon Sweet Cherry Commission.

Little cherry disease is a virus that causes small, flattened and bitter cherries that are late in ripening. It has increased in the last four years, causing removal of some orchards.

“We don’t know how widespread it is but large numbers of orchard blocks have been affected in Washington,” said Jim McFerson, manager of the Washington Tree Fruit Research Commission in Wenatchee.

The two commissions agreed to spend $63,479 in 2014 as the first of a three-year project to develop a management strategy for the little cherry virus, McFerson said. Why it’s increasing, how its transmitted and how to control will be studied, he said.

Cool, wet spring weather contributed to the virus in 2010 and 2011, Tim Smith, WSU Extension tree fruit specialist, has said. It is believed to be spread by mealy bugs and roots of different trees grafting into each other, he has said. Smith could not be reached for comment but will give an update on the disease at the North Central Washington Stone Fruit Day at the Wenatchee Convention Center at 11 a.m. Jan. 21.

The virus “shows up a little every once in a while” in orchards near The Dalles and Hood River, said Dana Branson, administrator of the Oregon Sweet Cherry Commission in Hood River.

It may be less there, she said, because those areas have fewer grapes than Washington. Mealy bugs prefer grapes and there are more grapes in Washington, Branson said.

The commissions allocated $72,000 for continued cherry breeding in 2014, McFerson said.

By using DNA molecular markers breeders are able to more reliably predict and select parents in for desired attributes in cherry breeding like fruit size, color, sweetness and combating bacterial cankers, he said. Use of markers has sped up breeding work, he said.

Other continuing research being funded includes spotted wing drosophila, powdery mildew and post-harvest handling to improve shipping quality, McFerson said.

The Washington Tree Fruit Research Commission provides $477,000 for new and continuing cherry research projects in 2014, the Oregon commission about $265,000 and the California Cherry Advisory Board, $23,000, Branson said. The money comes from grower assessments.


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