Sweetheart overtakes Bing as popular cherry variety – Orchards, Nuts & Vines – Capital Press

Sweetheart overtakes Bing as popular cherry variety

Published: January 20, 2016 9:06AM

AR-160129993.jpg%26amp;MaxW=600Dan Wheat/Capital Press Ana Capi picks Rainier cherries at Prey Orchard in Orondo, Wash., last June 18. Demand for cherries was strong last season. Growing, packing and marketing cherries was discussed at Washington State University’s Northcentral Stone Fruit Day in Wenatchee on Jan. 19.
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Cherry varieties, disease and pest problems were talked about at the annual Washington State University Northcentral Washington Stone Fruit Day.

WENATCHEE, Wash. — Sweetheart has overtaken Bing.

That’s what several hundred growers heard at the Northcentral Washington Stone Fruit Day, sponsored by Washington State University Extension and the Washington State Fruit Commission, at the Wenatchee Convention Center on Jan. 19.

Sweetheart, a late variety red cherry originating in Summerland, B.C., in 1994, overtook Bing in Pacific Northwest production in 2015 or perhaps in 2014, said B.J. Thurlby, president of the State Fruit Commission and Northwest Cherry Growers.

While he didn’t have red cherries broken down by variety, the largest shippers all told him they had more Sweetheart in 2015 than Bing, Thurlby said.

“It’s a trend growers need to understand when they are looking at what to plant,” he said.

WSU’s cherry breeding program began in 1949 and one of its first releases was Rainier. The program’s goal is to breed early varieties that are crack resistant and late varieties that are mildew resistant for Washington and Oregon, said Ines Hanrahan, postharvest physiologist of the Washington Tree Fruit Research Commission. Size, firmness, color and taste are key attributes being sought.

PNW cherry crops have grown to be in the 20 million, 20-pound box range since 2009 with a peak of 23.2 million in 2014 and a final last season of 19.3 million, Thurlby said. A 21.3-million-box crop is likely this year if recent trends persist, he said. Following a 5.3-million, 18-pound box California crop in May, the PNW crop in June hit a record 11.9 million, 20-pound boxes but demand still exceeded supply, he said.

Marketers and retailers scheduled early July advertising in early June based on the belief that there would be a lull in supply between Bing and late varieties in early July, Thurlby said. But the hottest June on record accelerated harvest, causing a market glut in early July that tumbled prices, he said.

“It was a real mess and disappointing for me and I’m sure all of you,” he said.

Volume peaked at 600,000 boxes shipped on June 25 compared with a July 25 peak two years earlier and 18.7 million boxes were shipped in a compressed 60-day window, he said. Sweetheart normally has 80 to 90 days between bloom and harvest but was at 56 days, he said.

James Michael, Northwest Cherry Growers domestic promotions director, said there’s room for larger crops given health benefits of cherries. Americans average 1.5 units of cherries per person per season and if that rose 1 unit PNW growers would have to produce 28.4 million boxes to meet demand, he said.


Rains Keep Washington Hay Growers From Fields | Alfalfa content from Hay & Forage Grower

Rains Keep Washington Hay Growers From Fields

The second cutting of alfalfa is under way in much of Washington, but recent rain has caused some decline in quality, says Chep Gauntt, a Pasco, WA, grower.

“It did damage equivalent to a lot of heavy dews. But there’s not been a lot put up yet,” says Gauntt, who, with his son, Drex, harvests 1,300 acres of alfalfa and timothy. About 90-95% of their center-pivot-irrigated crop is exported.

As second cutting progresses, the price for “really nice, double-compressed bales … might be $240-250/ton,” he estimates.

Alfalfa and timothy prices in the Columbia Basin have been steady, with good demand and light to moderate supplies available, according to the July 3 USDA Market News report.

Alfalfa large-square bale prices were, for supreme quality, $260-270/ton; for premium, $260/ton; good quality, $240-245/ton; and fair quality, $220/ton.

Large squares of timothy grass were priced at $270-280/ton for premium quality and $260-270/ton for good quality. Small squares of premium timothy traded at $280/ton. Small squares of premium orchardgrass sold for $260-275/ton.

To contact the Gauntts, email gaunttfarm or call 509-521-4245.

Northwest hay growers doubt acreage report’s accuracy

Published: July 8, 2014 11:46AM

Last changed: July 8, 2014 12:44PM

AR-140709884.jpg&MaxW=600Carol Ryan Dumas/Capital Press
Swathing takes a break in this alfalfa field in Jerome Idaho, on Tuesday morning, July 8. Idaho is down 10,000 in hay acres harvested this year, a surprise to some in the industry.

Harvested hay acres dropped slightly this year in the U.S., but some big increases in Washington and Oregon have growers there surprised and doubtful of USDA’s reported numbers.

While U.S. hay acreage has dropped slightly compared to a year ago, increased acreage reported in individual states last week by USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service comes as a big surprise to growers.

Nationwide harvested acreage of all hay at 57.6 million acres is down 611,000 acres from

58.3 million acres in 2013. But acreage is up 160,000 in Washington and 30,000 in Oregon, according to the report.

Those increases seem unrealistice, according to growers in Washington and Oregon who represent their state hay associations.

At 920,000 acres, Washington alfalfa acres are up 60,000 acres, and other hay is up 100,000 acres, USDA reported.

“Flaws in the numbers — that’s my first thought,” said Loren Lentz, president of the Washington State Hay Growers Association, who farms north of Spokane.

“I’m going to guess there’s something wrong. I can’t think where it would have gone in,” he said.

More acres did go into Timothy hay due to demand and price, but fall planting of hay acres in the Columbia basin were more likely to have been down because prices were down through fall, he said.

California buyers did come in through winter and spring and cleared out a lot of Washington’s excess of lower quality Timothy and alfalfa and raised prices, so producers could have planted more in the spring. But that crop won’t produce until next year, and it could even take two years to establish well enough to harvest, he said.

He hasn’t seen any big swings in hay acreage in his northeast area.

Lentz said Washington’s first cutting was some of the best hay in quite a while and prices are good. Washington won’t be competing with California this year on export hay due to California’s short water situation, so things are looking good on that front, he said.

At 1.05 million acres in total, Oregon is down 10,000 acres in alfalfa but up 40,000 acres in other hay, USDA reported.

“That’s a big number. It’s a tough one to believe,” said Greg Mohnen, a Bend, Ore., hay grower and vice president of the Oregon Hay and Forage Association.

He’s heard that growers were increasing acreage because of high hay prices, but he doesn’t know where it would have gone in or what producers would have taken out of production to make room for more hay, he said.

If the acreage numbers are correct, that excess hay will be going to California, he said.

California’s total acreage, at 1.4 million acres, is down 70,000 acres. Alfalfa acres are up 30,000, and other hay is down 100,000 acres, USDA reported.

It’s certainly no surprise that acreage is down, said Spencer Halsey, executive director of California Alfalfa and Forage Association.

He doesn’t know if the association’s members agree with the numbers, but the short water supply is being diverted to more permanent crops or highest value crops, he said.

It’s an interesting situation for hay growers in California because hay prices are high. Water is tight, but if they have the water, they can make more money on hay than some other crops, he said.

Idaho’s hay acreage, at 1.5 million, is down 10,000 acres — 40,000 less in alfalfa and up 30,000 in other hay.

Some of that loss could be in lost seeds and stands in small basins due to drought challenges, but those losses shouldn’t be enough to bring acreage down as much as USDA reported, said Glenn Shewmaker, extension forage specialist with the University of Idaho in Twin Falls.

Due to high prices and lower input costs, alfalfa would bring better returns than most other crops. He doesn’t understand the drop in acreage in Idaho or nationwide, he said.

He would have thought more corn acres would have been converted to alfalfa. Inputs for alfalfa are lower than corn and with current prices, growers could net a couple of hundred dollars more per acre than many other crops, he said, adding USDA’s numbers are suspect.

Hay area harvested

Area all hay 2013 all hay 2014

1,000 acres

Calif. 1,440 1,370

Idaho 1,480 1,470

Ore. 1,020 1050

Wash. 760 920

U.S. 58,257 57,646


Weekly #18 West Coast Hay and Straw


Central and Northern California is finishing 1st cut Alfalfa. The entire California is in severe drought and above normal temperature with strong dry winds. Wild fire began throughout the state. According to UC extention agent the cooler than average early spring temperatures in Kern and Imperial Valley County have produced higher than normal aphid numbers. consequently, yields decreased as much as 30-80 percent in some areas. Premium Alfalfa Hay is limited supply. Most of hay was just #1 quality this week. Klein @190-200 for premium and Bermuda @180-190 and Oat @165-170 for export quality.


Columbia Basin area started cutting triticale for green chop and some farmers is planning to produce 1st cut Alfalfa next week. Generally market was slow and quiet.


Weekly #17 West Coast Hay and Straw


All Southern/Central/Northern CA still drought condition. Kern and Imperial counties are continuing damaged by aphid on new crop Alfalfa Hay. Alfalfa Hay traded 5 higher at FOB Stack this week and also less color and dry. Exporters started to purchase Klein and Bermuda Hay. Price started to 20-30 lower than last year crop at beginning.


Still quite trade and some activities of Alfalfa and Oat by export and domestic buyer in Eastern Oregon. In Washington most of exporters continue to sell excess inventory to domestic market before new crop.