European consumers buying cherries can choose many different varieties produced throughout the world. In the past, Germany, Italy, Spain, and France have dominated the European market. However, in the last decade, cherries from Turkey have captured an increasingly large market share ranging from 25,000 to 35,000 tons annually. The vast majority of this fruit was a single variety called 0900 Ziraat, sometimes sold in Europe under the name Napoleon.
American cherry growers and industry professionals who sampled 0900 Ziraat on their travels to Europe brought back favorable reports on the quality of the fruit. To determine if this cherry had the quality characteristics needed for production by American cherry growers, George Ing and personnel from Oregon Cherry Growers separately imported 0900 Ziraat bud wood from Turkey.
The bud wood imported by both parties was sent to the National Research Support Project No. 5 in Prosser, Washington, to be virus-indexed. After indexing, both sources were provisionally released by Bill Howell, director of the NRSP5 program. By 2002, the first trees of 0900 Ziraat on Gisela 5 rootstock were ready for planting in the Oregon State University variety trial plot in The Dalles. In 2004, 0900 Ziraat trees on Gisela 6 rootstock were planted in a second test plot in The Dalles.
About this same time, Ing received a trademark for the name Zing, and plants of 0900 Ziraat began to be sold under that name. Several Oregon growers were interested in growing this variety, but it was unclear which U.S. varieties would adequately pollinize 0900 Ziraat. For this reason, samples of 0900 Ziraat were sent from Oregon to Dr. Amy Iezzoni at Michigan State University for S-allele genotyping. Subsequent to its provisional release, the Ing selection was found to contain little cherry virus, and all plants propagated from this source only, were ordered destroyed.
Iezzoni’s report indicates that 0900 Ziraat has the very rare S-allele combination of S3 S12. This allele combination was found in only two cherries out of more than 200 sweet cherries examined. These cherries are Schneiders and Princess. According to Iezzoni, several years ago Dr. Berthold Heinze, a forest sweet cherry geneticist from the Research Centre for Forests in Vienna, Austria, told her that 0900 Ziraat is really
he old German sweet cherry variety Schneiders. These results strengthen the theory that 0900 Ziraat and Schneiders are synonyms for the same cherry. In addition, Ferrovia, the most important variety grown in the Apulia cherry production region near Bari, Italy, is also thought to be Schneiders.
Preliminary evaluation at the OSU variety trials suggest that there are definite similarities between 0900 Ziraat and Schneiders. In 2005 and 2006, 0900 Ziraat on Gisela 5 bloomed three days ahead of Schneiders on Mazzard rootstock, a timing that can potentially be explained by the earlier blooming habit of trees on Gisela 5 (see table). Ripening time, however, was similar, as was skin and flesh color. In 2005, total soluble solids was higher in 0900 Ziraat, but fruit was deemed somewhat overripe when it was tested. In 2006, total soluble solids was similar between the two varieties grown on Mazzard, but lower on the 0900 Ziraat grown on Gisela 5. Fruit size for both varieties in both years was similar except for 0900 Ziraat grown on Mazzard, which is infected with little cherry virus. Fruit firmness in 2005 was similar as was the fruit firmness in 2006 for both varieties grown on Mazzard.
It must be emphasized that these are preliminary results only. However, at this time, whether we call it 0900 Ziraat, Napoleon, or Zing, there is increasing evidence that this popular cherry from Turkey may in reality only be the old German variety called Schneiders.