THE DALLES, Ore. — A new cherry, first commercially harvested last fall in Chile and Australia, may become a replacement for the early Chelan variety in the Northwest.

Like the Chelan, Cheery Grand is an early June cherry, but unlike the Chelan, it is much larger, says Lynn Long, Oregon State University Extension specialist emeritus in The Dalles.

Cheery Grand is a 9.5-row cherry meaning 9.5 cherries fill a single row in a 20-pound box. It takes more Chelan cherries, 11 on average, to fill that same row since they are smaller. Consumers like large cherries.

Long continues to work part-time for OSU since his retirement in June of 2017, and he’s also part-time international cherry program manager for International Fruit Genetics of Bakersfield, Calif. It’s the largest private breeder of table grapes in the world and has just begun commercial release of new cherry varieties it's been developing for 20 years.

Cheery Grand was well received in Australia and Chile and even in China, which imported some of the first crop, Long said. It tends to be tart in flavor, depending on when it is harvested, he said.

“Our hope is it will be planted in the Northwest. Growers have been looking for a replacement for the Chelan for a long time,” he said.

IFG has another new variety, not yet patented or named, that’s also large, firm and flavorful and ripens about a week before Chelan, Long said.

The company has seven patented varieties and is working on others. Its emphasis has been early and low-chill varieties.

In the Northwest, cherry buds need 1,000 to 1,200 hours of 45 degrees or colder during winter dormancy for a good bloom. Insufficient chill hours produces weak or spread out bloom that results in light fruit volume and wide variation in ripening time.

California cherry growers have been hampered by insufficient chill hours several times in recent years.

“IFG has two varieties (Cheery Crunch and Cheery Blush) that only need 150 chill hours, which is super low, lower than any other cherry varieties in the world,” Long said. “That opens whole new production areas.”

It means more early fruit, which normally sells for the highest prices.

Cheery Crunch was planted last year in Chile and will be planted in Spain within the next year, Long said.

Northwest growers want more early and late varieties and varieties that resist cracking from rain. While interested in crack resistance, IFG has focused on low-chill, Long said.

OSU has no cherry breeding program. Washington State University’s program is working toward new early and late varieties for large fruit that is rain resistant.

Cheery Grand is the only new variety ready for planting now that is early and offers large fruit, Long said. It’s a managed variety, meaning approved growers will grow it under contract with IFG. There are only about five active public and private cherry breeding programs in the U.S., Long said.

Central Washington field reporter

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