The rationale behind this project is clear – to remain profitable and sustainable, the sweet cherry industry must improve harvest labor efficiency without reducing consumer appeal of the fruit. Feedback gleaned from stake holders made it clear that innovation, discovery and outreach must integrate the total value chain from genetics and breeding to processing and marketing. Too often research and/or outreach are directed at only individual components in the total system and innovations fail to have industry impact. This project aims to develop pragmatic, meaningful solutions using a model, total systems-based, trans-disciplinary approach. Our goal is to develop a sustainable industry for the production, handling, packaging, and selling of sweet cherries with high consumer appeal.
Washington ranks #1 among all U.S. states in the production of sweet cherries. In fact, at current production levels, Washington State produces approximately 10% of the world’s sweet cherries. Nationally, California is second and Oregon is third in sweet cherry production. Sweet cherry is a model specialty crop – ultra high value. Indeed, sweet cherry has the potential to be among the most profitable agricultural commodities. Moreover, the U.S. sweet cherry crop is highly sought after throughout the world because of its outstanding quality and ephemeral supply.