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It is always a good idea to proceed with caution when growing new fruit varieties.

Tieton, Benton, and Selah are new sweet cherry varieties from the Washington State University breeding program in Prosser. Their fruit size, quality, and ripening times create great interest among growers in the Pacific Northwest and elsewhere.

All three of these selections are infected with prune dwarf virus and were evaluated with that infection in trials at the Irrigated Agriculture Research and Extension Center at Prosser. These trials suggest that, despite the virus infection, the three varieties grow well in the Yakima Valley on a range of rootstocks.

Not surprisingly, however, as these new varieties are taken to other areas and under different management systems, various results transpire. Recent observations in California and in some Washington orchards indicate that we are still on a steep learning curve with them. Varying degrees of declining trees, leaves with necrotic spotting and shot hole symptoms, and wilted appearance are being associated with these varieties. In some orchards, these symptoms appear to be economic, but often they appear to be insignificant. For now, explanations for these symptoms are at best speculative.

Encouraging

These new varieties offer good possibilities. Their attributes are encouraging, but all their down sides are yet to be discovered. They have not been tested on all cherry roots and under all growing conditions for an extended period of time. Growers should be mindful and proceed with some caution. Time and experience will determine the ultimate potential of these varieties. Orchardists who are able to grow them well will likely benefit from their returns. However, in many ways, these are still unknown commodities, as are all new varieties. Bing has been grown in the Pacific Northwest for more than a hundred years. We are still learning how to best manage it, but not nearly as much as is to be learned about any new variety for the foreseeable future.

Scientists with U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Research Service, the University of California, and Washington State University are initiating studies to elucidate causes of problems observed in some orchards this past summer. Those experiments will begin this winter.

Tieton (U.S. Plant Patent No. 11,385) and Benton (USPP No 15,847) are patent and trademark protected. The patent for Selah is pending.