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Rain has been a challenge for cherry growers

FINGER LAKES—Sweet cherries! Those shiny red orbs are now ripe and ready for picking, but this year’s excessive rainfall in June has been a real challenge for cherry growers and even the cherries.
In 2008, the official rain gauge at the Penn Yan Yates County Airport measured 1.81 inches. This year, Yates has received more than three times that amount, a drenching of 6.08 inches of rain.
Rain cracking is a perennial problem for cherry growers which is caused by rain just before harvest when the skin of the cherry absorbs the rain, or even dew, until the fruit bursts open. This is an osmotic phenomenon and not due to roots taking up water.
“Definitely the rain last week did not help. It contributed to splitting (of the cherries) and about 20 percent of the cherries were affected,” commented Tammy Kellogg who raises sweet cherries in Hector.
Growers Sayre Fulkerson in Dundee said the crop in his orchard on Route 14 is a bit light this year. He didn’t know if the light crop this year was caused by poor pollination or frost. Fulkerson said he began growing cherries in 1982 before he began producing wine. Fulkerson said sweet cherry trees take a long time to grow and they can be a challenge to pick because they usually bear the heaviest fruit right at the top.
It’s a brave person who raises cherries. Site selection is the first consideration as cherry trees need shelter from wind and freedom from frost. On the plus side, they need less water than apple trees and are adapted to coarser textured soils, if those soils have good drainage.
Once the trees are bearing, a group of challenges come up in addition to rain cracking. Trunk injury, caused by wide fluctuations in temperatures, is quite common. This damage can allow insects and disease organisms to enter the tree.
Critters are another challenge for sweet cherries. Birds absolutely love to feast on cherries even before they are ripe. Deer also love cherries.
Once all the difficulties in raising cherries are past and the fruit is ripe, the resulting fruit is a winner. On average, 21 cherries contain just 90 calories, fiber and Vitamin C and no fat or cholesterol. They freeze well for off-season eating for those willing to gently pit each cherry and can be used in fresh fruit salads as well as a number of fruit desserts.
Whether you enjoy picking your own or just stopping by a farmer’s market or your favorite grocery store-the cherries are now ripe for the picking!

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