Montmorency cherry. To visit the new MSU cherry Web site,

Montmorency cherry. To visit the new MSU cherry Web site,

Researchers at Michigan State University have evaluated hundreds of sweet cherry varieties for the fresh and processed markets, but until now, the data was housed in multiple places and in different formats. A new MSU cherry Web site will give growers access to variety evaluations in a "one-stop shop" database.

Dr. Nikki Rothwell, MSU horticulturist and coordinator of the Northwest Michigan Horticultural Research Station in Traverse City, said that MSU began standardizing data collection on new cherry varieties in 2007. A new database was developed, and evaluations are being merged into the program.

MSU has three primary cherry evaluation sites across the state—NWMHRS (Traverse City), Southwest Michigan Research and Extension Center in Benton Harbor, and Clarksville Horticultural Experiment Station. The Traverse City station, serving as the main hub for cherry cultivar evaluation, houses more than 300 selections under study.

Processed and fresh

Some sweet cherry varieties have potential for brining and canning processors, while some are being considered as fresh-market cherries. Rothwell said that the different requirements for different types of markets made past data collection hard to standardize in one format. For example, stem attachment is important for brining cherries and pit shape important for processing, but not the fresh market.

Now, identical data is collected and merged into one site for easier grower access for all cherry types on fruit characteristics (skin and flesh color, cracking tendency, firmness, size, soluble solids, flavor, and pit type) and tree characteristics (yield, bloom, harvest timing, tree vigor, disease incidence, and cold damage).

The cultivar descriptions also include photos of the cherries and show the number of years that data has been collected.