Washington State University researchers are looking at ways to “sniff out” little cherry disease early enough to allow Eastern Washington cherry growers to prevent the disease from spreading. The disease has reached epidemic levels in Yakima, Benton and Franklin counties and has cost growers across the state millions of dollars in tree removal and lost revenue.
Corina Serban, who leads WSU’s Little Cherry Disease Extension and Outreach program: “Finding the little cherry disease for a grower is pretty bad news. The grower cannot put that fruit on the market.” Serban added that when researchers talk about little cherry disease, they’re often using is an umbrella term for two different pathogens — Little Cherry virus-2 and X-disease phytoplasma — that cause similar symptoms.
Researchers met with local growers yesterday at the Messimore orchard in Buena to demonstrate several little cherry disease pilot projects, including training companion dogs with the Wenatchee Kennel Club to identify infected trees. Serban: “Right now, the dogs are pretty good at detecting the infected samples, but we don’t know exactly what they’re smelling.”