1a. Objectives (from AD-416)
The main abjective of this cooperative research project is to continue testing ARS's experimental sweet cherry harvester to determine cultivar characteristics, cultural practices, and tree training systems compatible with this harvesting concept. A second objective is to aid in technology transfer for commercialization.
1b. Approach (from AD-416)
The experimental sweet cherry harvester developed at the Appalachian Fruit Research Station will be loaned to Dr. Matthew D. Whiting, Washington State University, Prosser, WA., for the 2007, 2008 and 2009 seasons. Dr. Whiting is developing and evaluating sweet cherry cultivar characteristics, cultural practices, and tree training systems for compatibility with machine harvest. Annual harvest trials will determine the optimum parameters.
3. Progress Report
The research addresses NP 305 Crop Production Component I: Integrated Sustainable Crop Production Systems, Problem Statements 1B.1, Develop Integrated Strategies for the Management of Pests and Environmental Factors that Impact Yield, Quality, and Profitability of Perennial Crops; 1B.2, Develop Mechanization and Automation Practices that Increase Production Efficiency; and 1B.3, Develop Perennial Crop Production Systems that are Productive, Profitable, and Environmentally Acceptable. The potential to mechanize the harvest of fresh market quality, stem-free sweet cherries is being investigated. The USDA-developed prototype harvester has garnered significant interest in the west coast sweet cherry industry. The harvester is the hub of a larger, integrated research program to develop a production and marketing system for stemfree sweet cherries (including orchard systems, abscission studies, economics of harvest systems, storability of stemfree fruit, and consumer's perceptions of stem-free fruit). We continued to study sweet cherry fruit abscission, reigning application timing and rates of Ethephon, and also partnering with USDA-ARS metabolomics scientists to compare the metabolome of Ethephon-treated and untreated Bing fruit. We harvested mechanically Bing and Skeena orchards to study shelf-life and storability of these stemfree fruit compared to 'normal' fruit. We partnered with a commercial packing shed, Western Sweet Cherry Group, to run the fruit through a commercial cold chain and storage facility. We found that shelf-life of fruit was not affected by mechanical harvest. This work was repeated in 2008 and is currently in progress. We investigated, specifically, the role of the fruit pedicel in postharvest cherry weight loss and overall storability. We demonstrated that for both Bing and Skeena, water loss of stem-free fruit was not different from fruit with pedicels attached. We studied also vascular connectivity between pedicel and fruit with static dye uptake studies. In partnership with Northwest Cherries and CherryHill of Australia, we evaluated consumer's perceptions of stem-free sweet cherries in major grocery stores in Australia in July 2007. The response was overwhelmingly positive with 55% of respondents preferring stem-free to standard fruit. The ADODR has monitored activities through calls and emails.