Cherry Institute hits Yakima, preceded by systems tour

Washington State University researcher Matt Whiting, center, discusses cherry systems with Shawn Gay in Benton City on Jan. 6 at Whiting’s annual pre-institute cherry systems tour. Gay uses an informal Tatura training system with four leaders split into a Y-trellis for his Coral Champagne cherries, the row on the left, and Chelan, right. (Ross Courtney/Good Fruit Grower)

Growers have filed into the Yakima Convention Center for the annual Cherry Institute today, but the action started the day before, on Jan. 6, with Washington State University’s cherry systems tour.

Researcher Matt Whiting typically precedes the institute with visits to Yakima Valley cherry orchards to discuss the pros and cons of different training and pruning systems. Roughly 40 people braved chilly weather and snowy orchard floors Thursday to check out three orchards.

Keith Oliver of Olsen Bros. showed off a 2021 planting of Santina and Black Pearl cherries in UFO training on Gisela 6 and Gisela 12 rootstocks, respectively, in Benton City. The company planted in a straight row but trained the trees into a V-trellis, alternating each trunk to either side to give each leader more room to grow. Oliver expects to prune so that upright fruiting branches are 8–10 inches apart.

Also in Benton City, Shawn Gay of Finley showed off his 2018 Y-trellised trees, trained with four leaders, two on each side. He has Coral Champagne on G.6 and Chelan on Mazzard. He started with a formal Tatura system, training lateral branches straight sideways, but he has since softened and allowed the laterals to bend upward to fill space, a change that has cut down on labor.

In nearby Grandview, managers from Allan Bros. discussed a 2018 V-trellis block of Skeena cherries, each with two leaders, on Mazzard rootstocks. Travis Allan said the system fills space and produces well but will require diligent renewal pruning and training.

“A lot of renewal in here, and keep them young,” Allan said.

by Ross Courtney

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