Sunday, July 29, 2012

Sweet Cherries

Smarter Cherries

Rainier cherry scion micrografted on sweet cherry rootstock ~ Many know that Washington State University (WSU) is a national leader in agricultural research. Not so many know that WSU researchers are working to solve immediate, practical problems for growers, for example, in sweet cherry propagation:
Imagine ordering a piece of cherry pie at a restaurant, and being told that your pie would be delivered in two or three years. On your way out the door, you’d probably tell the waiter, “That’s no way to do business!” Orchard managers, however, have to place their orders for sweet cherry trees two to three years in advance of receiving and planting them.
Cherries, like many fruit trees, have been traditionally propagated in soil at an open-air nursery:
To create the rootstock, a whip, or young branch, is planted horizontally in the ground, allowing it to generate multiple shoots. The young shoots may be assailed by frost, pests, and diseases. Costly pesticides are then applied. After a full year, the rootstock is old enough to be grafted to the scion, a woody shoot with buds that will become the fruit-producing part of the tree.
WSU undergraduate Matthew Allan and student Tyson Koepke, under the supervision of Professor Amit Dhingra, pioneered a different approach. Using tissue culture techniques in the lab, they found they could better control environmental factors and optimize the growing conditions to produce better quality cherry trees in less time.

The research is part of a broader set of intellectual property licensed by WSU to Phytelligence, which intends to produce commercial quantities of cherry and other fruit trees using the techniques.

Said Dhingra:
We wanted to see if it was possible to get an orchard-ready tree within a year, instead of two to three years.
It is possible; the next step is to produce cherry trees in larger quantities that growers can buy and plant. Phytelligence founders Dhingra and Koepke are working to do just that.

Cross-posted from the Phytelligence blog.

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