Cherry research

The cherry industry will discuss funding research about the health benefits of the fruit during an international conference in Germany.

YAKIMA, Wash. — Sweet cherry industry representatives from several nations will discuss collaboration on health research at Fruit Logistica in Berlin.

B.J. Thurlby, president of Northwest Cherry Growers and the Washington State Tree Fruit Commission in Yakima, said he and cherry growers in Chile called for the meeting to see if cherry growers in other countries are willing to pool funding for research promoting health benefits of cherries.

Cherry growers from Argentina, United Kingdom, Spain, Greece, South Africa, Turkey and Poland were invited to an informal gathering Feb. 7 during Fruit Logistica. About 78,000 people and 3,200 exhibitors usually attend the annual fresh produce trade show.

Northwest Cherry Growers, the promotional arm of the Northwest cherry industry, the Washington Apple Commission and Pear Bureau Northwest share a booth at the show.

Thurlby said he’s never seen any global research on health benefits of cherries. He spoke to about 400 growers in Chile last April. The Chilean Fresh Fruit Association was interested and Chile has seen a big benefit from health research on blueberries, he said.

“My board sees health research as a critical thing we can bring to the table in the Northwest,” Thurbly said. “If we could get a global group together that could agree on a specific message, we would end up with a strong health benefit. The goal would be to utilize the same message.”

The challenge will be a funding mechanism but more funding for more research could result in dissemination of findings faster and more broadly to benefit all, he said.

Northwest Cherry Growers spends $200,000 to $300,000 per year on health research and other countries each spend on their own, he said.

Northwest research has shown cherries are a natural source of antioxidants and are rich in cyanidins, a key ingredient in lowering cancer risk. Further, that cherries contain anti-inflamatory compounds that relieve arthritis pain and are loaded with melatonin, the body’s natural sleep aid.

Central Washington field reporter

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