Northwest Cherries Are Almost Here, But There Will Be Less Fruit Than Usual
Just as a farmer’s fruit should be turning juicy and sweet, an old foe called “little cherry disease” robs the harvest.
From The Dalles, Oregon to Brewster, Washington, Northwest cherry growers are checking their orchards now, just before harvest. Infected trees have to be cut down. And the disease can spread like wildfire from tree to tree until an entire orchard is just stumps.
Small, pale, bland and bitter
Cherry industry officials estimate the disruption has already chopped 40 million pounds of cherries from the harvest. Two things are at work: A phytoplasma, that’s similar to a bacteria, and a seperate virus causing similar little-cherry symptoms. They’re spread by insects like leafhoppers and mealybugs.
“They’re small and pale, but they’re either bland or bitter,” Tianna DuPoint, with the Washington State University Extension in Wenatchee, said. “So they won’t hurt you if you eat them, but they’re not marketable.”
Little cherry disease has devastated growers in California and Canada. Northwest farmers can request training from WSU Extension staff, or get a newly-produced booklet to help them identify the disease.
The Northwest harvest begins about the end of May. This year there will be fewer juicy red orbs than in years past.
Nearly 21 million, 20-pound boxes is how many cherries will be picked in Washington and Oregon this year. That’s down about 20% from the record-setting 2017 crop. Still, 21 million boxes is a lot of cherries. Growers are struggling with export markets and air shipments that are more complex than normal with trade wars and the coronavirus pandemic.
B.J. Thurlby leads the Northwest Cherry Growers industry group. He says exports to China will be down this year. But there is some good news.
“We’re expecting at least two million boxes just to (South) Korea, Taiwan and Vietnam,” Thurlby said. “So that should be a good export deal for us.”
Beyond trade problems, Thurbly says the crop is down largely due to little cherry disease and spring frost.
The earliest varieties in markets are likely to be Chelans, a dark red cherry, and Early Robins, a yellow Rainier-style cherry.
Only 12 commercial fishing captains still hold permits to go reefnet fishing in the Pacific Northwest out of a fleet that once numbered in the hundreds. The distinctive fishing technique dates back thousands of years as an Indigenous method to catch salmon. Its practitioners today say the gear should proliferate as the preferred way to harvest healthy salmon runs while avoiding fragile stocks. Continue Reading The last of the Salish Sea reefnetters don’t want to be the last
Wine grapes are exposed to smoke for 36 hours, with samples taken every six hours to analyze how wildfire smoke might affect the grapes, and the final wine. Professor Tom… Continue Reading New Technology Could Keep Wildfire Smoke Out Of Wine
There’s a rising tide of interest in opening seaweed farms in the Pacific Northwest. If even half of the current applicants succeed, it would more than double the small number of commercial seaweed growing operations in Oregon and Washington state. Continue Reading Rising Tide: Pacific Northwest Could Soon Double Or Triple Its Small Number Of Seaweed Farms