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As the Pacific Northwest sweet cherry industry moves toward larger crops in the future, it will take the industry working together to achieve success, says the president of Northwest Cherry Growers. The Cherry Institute, scheduled for January 15 at the Convention Center in Yakima, Washington, aims to bring all segments of industry together to discuss research, production, and marketing issues.

The size of the 2009 Pacific Northwest sweet cherry crop broke all records with more than 20.4 million boxes shipped. But maturity was late—peak production missed the key Fourth of July market—and it overlapped with California’s crop. Additionally, heat caused ripening to occur simultaneously in early and late districts. It was for many a particularly dismal year for grower returns.

With an estimated 30,000 acres of sweet cherries planted just in Washington State, many planted to high-density ­systems, the potential for crops in the 20-million-box range has been a possibility for several years. In 2009, reality hit.

“Forums like the Cherry Institute are critical to the grower to learn what’s happening in the market, what’s new in the orchard, and hear how that all relates to the consumer,” said B.J. Thurlby, president of the Washington State Fruit Commission and Northwest Cherry Growers, the promotion arm for sweet cherries produced in Washington, Oregon, Utah, Idaho, and Montana.

The annual, one-day educational forum and trade show, which includes crowning the Cherry King during lunch, will provide practical tips and cutting-edge research to equip cherry growers with the tools they need to keep the Northwest cherry industry thriving. Growers will hear from cherry marketers regarding what they think it will take to sell larger crops in the future. The agenda includes the following presentations:

• A 2009 Cherry marketing overview: Moving a record crop—B.J. Thurlby, Keith Hu, and James Michael, Northwest Cherry Growers

• Programs to reduce rain-induced cherry cracking—Ines Hanrahan, Washington Tree Fruit Research Commission

• Crop load management on Gisela rootstocks—Lynn Long, Oregon State University

• Grower panel: The basics of how to impact fruit size—Tim Dahle, Travis Allan, Norm Gutzwiler

• Economic considerations prior to cherry harvest—Mykel Taylor, Washington State University

• Future trends of mechanization in orchard systems—Qin Zhang, WSU

• Pesticide maximum residue limits for export—Dr. Michael Willett, Northwest Horticultural Council

• Sales and marketing panel: Selling larger crops in the future—Marketers to be announced

For more information, contact the Fruit Commission at (509) 453-4837 or visit www.wastatefruit.org.