According to horticultural experts, Scotland’s cherry trees are under threat from disease and a phenomenon called June Drop capable of devastating crops. While cherries are becoming more common among growers as locally-grown fruit is in high demand, the trees are prone to June Drop – an ailment that causes canker, a fungal disease – and can spontaneously lose up to 80% of their fruit if affected.
Now, scientists are researching the threats to cherry trees with the aim of finding ways to make them more resilient to disease and the changing climate. Researchers at the James Hutton Institute in Aberdeen are carrying out a project called Cherry Berry to examine what might cause the trees to shed fruit. With sophisticated infrared cameras mounted on tractors, temperature sensors and CCTV, trees are monitored in an attempt to pinpoint the warning signs of June Drop.
Researchers at the National Institute of Agricultural Botany in Cambridge are taking samples from cherry orchards across the UK to establish the distribution of different strains. Scientists will examine the genomic sequence of the bacteria to work out how it varies and the information could help with breeding cherry trees with natural resistance to it.