Cherry Showcase puts spotlight on best varieties
Greg Lang and Wally Heuser, left, talk about cherries with growers. Wanda Heuser Gale, also with Summit Sales and International Plant Management, and Nikki Rothwell from the Northwest Michigan horticulture station (minding Erin Lizotte’s son Dillon) are part of the variety evaluation team.
Sweet cherry growers in Michigan and other humid, eastern states like New York might want to look at this list as a potential lineup of dark sweet cherry varieties to carry through the season—starting two weeks earlier than Hedelfingen and going 30 days.
The list, which is revised every year, was released July 13 by Drs. Nikki Rothwell, Greg Lang, and Bill Shane, the Michigan State University team that evaluates them.
At the annual Sweet Cherry Showcase, these varieties and many others were available for testing, and about 40 people showed up on Fruit Ridge for the get-together. They were joined by Wally Heuser, president of International Plant Management and cosponsor of the event, in commenting on the cherries.
In the early variety group, Cavalier and Viva, two older varieties, still get the asterisk, meaning, recommended. Early Robin is the only other choice in this early category, and its performance has been variable in Michigan.
In the next group, 11 to 7 days before Hedelfingen, there are a lot of contenders but none get the recommended status. Among the contenders that have been looking good in limited tests are BlackPearl, EbonyPearl, Black York, Black Star, and Early Star. The Star varieties are from Italy; the others from New York.
Ulster and Viscount, two others varieties, still get the nod in the group 5 or 6 days before Hedelfingen, with plenty of contenders, including BurgundyPearl, Sylvia, Grace Star, Benton, and Black Gold. The top two still have plenty of problems—small fruit, cracking—so the search continues for better varieties.
In general, Lang said, West Coast varieties—bred for dry conditions—tend to be susceptible to bacterial canker, brown rot, or cracking in the humid Midwest and East. Among those that are definitely not good under Michigan conditions are Brooks, Tieton, Royalton, Bing, Lambert, Van, Lapins, Somerset, Vic, and Windsor.
Just days ahead of Hedelfingen are Schmidt and Summit, with Summit getting the asterisk for recommended. Schmidt yields poorly and has tree problems. Summit isn’t a great choice, because it cracks, has tree problems, is slow to mature, and is not firm. Sumleta (Sonata) and Alex are category candidates with little experience in Michigan.
In the Hedelfingen maturity zone, Hedelfingen is not recommended. Kristin gets the nod, despite soft fruit. There are few solid contenders in this group.
Maturing 2 to 4 days after Hedelfingen is Attika, recommended despite problems with low yields and an oblong pit that causes problems in processing. Most of Michigan’s sweet cherries still go to processing and need to be pitted. Lang noted that Attika, one of the most widely grown varieties in Europe, has a nice, long stem and really good flavor. Sandra Rose, Katalin, and Blaze Star are being tested.
In the category 5 to 14 days after Hedelfingen, nothing is recommended. Vic and Windsor are not recommended—they are soft and have quality problems; Lala Star is being looked at.
Hudson and Regina both come in 15 or more days after Hedelfingen, and both are recommended. Both have some quality problems, and Regina yields have been low. Sweetheart has tended to crack, but looks good under tunnel protection, Lang said. Sunset Bing is in this maturity zone, but Lang warns Eastern growers to be wary of any cherry carrying the name Bing.
The researchers also make a graph each year, placing each variety according to fruit size. It tends to form a bell-shaped curve, with many clustering around the middle and some conspicuous outliers. This year in Michigan trials, cherries averaged between 8 and 9 grams each.
An unnamed Cornell selection, NY 119, outdid all others with fruit coming in just over 14 grams. Heuser says, “it cracks like crazy when it rains,” but the selection looks great and is very sweet. Lang sees it doing well, perhaps, under rain protection.
Other large cherries this year—averaging above 11 grams, include Regina, Skeena, NY 213, Black Gold, Benton, Sandra Rose, Summit, Rainier, and some numbered selections.
Selections from Washington State tend to be good size, but probably not suited to the East.
Anderson, a New York variety released for processing use with the virtue that it retained stems during mechanical harvest, is not showing up well. “It doesn’t shake well at all. The wood is long and weepy. We’re still looking for a better stem-on brining variety,” Heuser said.