Quality should be no. 1 focus in Pacific Northwest

Quality is the No. 1 thing cherry growers should be focused on in the Pacific Northwest says Lynn Long, Oregon State University Extension educator. As more and more acres of high-density plantings come into play, growers need to fine-tune production to ensure that the Pacific Northwest’s reputation for high-quality fruit remains intact.

Hand-in-hand with an emphasis on growing the highest quality cherries, growers must mindfully renew blocks and use renewal pruning to their advantage. Growers who renovate orchards, keep blocks young, and renew fruiting wood are reaping the benefits by consistently producing high-quality fruit. But, this needs to be done by all the growers in order to strengthen the overall cherry industry.

Naturally, growers with an eye toward innovation are also paying close attention to the advantages it brings — whether that’s more efficient production, a faster return on investment, or both.

“We see some industry leaders that are taking the lead in innovation over the last 10 to 15 years. More growers have been willing to move in the direction of higher density plantings, new training system options, new varieties that are keeping the industry progressing forward,” he says. “More growers need to go in those directions if we’re going to maintain a reputation as a progressive industry,” he says.

Some growers are hesitant, though to go after the benefits of higher-density plantings, new training systems, and investing in new varieties — simply because of the up-front costs in moving toward a more progressive growing system. They want to wait to see how it pans out for other growers before taking the leap themselves. Growers who neglect to see the advantages of renewal and high-density plantings not only put the yield and quality of their crops at risk, they could put themselves out of business, Long says.

“We’ve got to have young orchards that are producing good-quality fruit. When orchards are getting old, we’ll see a decline in yield and quality,” he says. “It’s become more and more difficult for growers who are not capable of producing high quality. We’ll see them drop out of the industry,” he says.

However, Long says that even the hesitant growers are starting to see the benefits to innovation.

“They’re beginning to understand that there is a financial advantage with high early yields, high sustainable yields,” he says.

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