How to do Commercial Cherry farming?
In this article we will see how to do commercial Cherry farming.
Introduction to Cherry Fruit
Cherry Fruit is botanically a ‘drupe’ or ‘stone fruit’ and is considered to be the native of Caspian Black Sea region which have now been extended towards the Eastern regions and Northern India as well.
It is classified under the genus Prunus belonging to the family Rosaceae and only a few species of the subgenus Cerasus have edible fruit of which the important ones are – Prunus avium, the sweet cherry and Prunus cerasus, the sour cherry.
The leaves and fruit of the Sweet Cherry are larger as compared to other species. The leaves emerge from the buds which are folded lengthwise at the base of the leaf blades. There are glands on the petiole region which are often bright red in colour.
The flowers are White petalled and usually single with the buds containing from 1 to 5 flowers. The fruit varies from round to ovate and heart shaped. Oval shaped fruits have shallow stem cavities and the heart shaped fruit have deep cavities and prominent shoulders.
The skin and flesh colours range from Yellow to shades of Red and some are even Black and the stone is free and semi clingy.
The fruit is packed with many healthy nutrients and antioxidants and they are cultivated all over the world with Turkey, USA and Iran being the top three producers.
India ranks 26th in the producer list. It is a cold season crop so Northeast India is best suited for its cultivation.
The fruit generates higher returns, so the cultivation has started gaining popularity in the temperate regions of the country.
Let’s learn about the commercial cultivation of Cherries in detail.
Health Benefits of Cherry Fruit
Some of the health benefits Cherry fruit are:
- It has a good source of vitamin C and fibre.
- It helps in reducing inflammation and prevents muscle damage.
- It improves the functioning of the brain.
- It reduces the Arthritis pain.
- It helps you with sleep disorders.
- It helps in slowing the aging of the skin.
- It reduces the risk of heart strokes and related diseases.
- It prevents from Colon cancer.
- It protects from Diabetes.
Varieties of Cherry Fruit
There are about 120 varieties of Cherry fruits available to us, of which most of them belong to the sweet cherry group.
Sweet cherries have more than 100 varieties which are divided into Bigarreau and Heart groups.
Bigarreau group – These fruits are round in shape and the fruit colour varies from dark to light Red, and the hybrid varieties under this group are:
Heart group – The fruits are heart shaped with tender flesh and the fruit colours vary from dark red to light coloured red.
Some of the recommended varieties in India for different states are:
- Himachal Pradesh – White Heart, Stella, Lambert, Pink Early, Napoleon White, Black Tartarian, Van, Early Rivers and Black Republican.
- Jammu and Kashmir – Bigarreau Noir Gross, Guigne Noir Hative, Early Purple Black Heart, Guigne Pour Ova Precece, Black heart, Bigarreau Napoleon and Guigne Pour Ova Precece.
- Uttar Pradesh – Governor’s Wood, Bedford Prolific and Black Heart.
Cultivation Requirements of Cherry Fruit
Cherry, being a cold season crop, grows well in cold climatic regions with an elevation of 2500 metres above sea level. It requires 1200 to 1500 hours of chilling period during Winters but the fruit is sensitive to frost so spring frosts should be avoided.
It requires an annual rainfall of 100 to 125 cm. However, at the time of fruit ripening, it should be dry because heavy rain can cause fruit cracking.
Selection of Proper soil is a must for any crop cultivation. Cherry fruits thrive well in a well drained, deep sandy loam soil with a pH of 6.5-7.0.
The soil should have a good moisture content during Summers. However, water logging and heavy soils should be avoided.
Propagation in Cherry Cultivation
Cherry fruits are generally propagated by Grafting method through seeds or by Root cuttings. It can be well understood by the following two root stocks.
In India, for raising the sweet cherry plants, the seedlings used are – Paja, Bird cherry, Mahaleb and Mazzard. Paja seeds do not require chilling treatment but the mahaleb and mazzard seeds require stratification before sowing them.
The seeds can be extracted from fully ripened fruits and are then dried and stored in a cool place. The seeds are then soaked in 500 ppm GA3 for 24 hours and then stratified by placing them in between the layers of sand in a cool place at a temperature range between 2-4 degrees, for 80-120 days in case of mahaleb and 120-150 days in case of Mazzard seeds, for breaking the dormancy of seeds.
The medium should hold moisture during the stratification stage. As the embryonic root comes out, they should be transplanted in the nursery beds. These seeds are transplanted 6cm deep with 10-15 cm space between plants and 20-25 cm space between the rows.
The beds are mulched with thick hay of 10-15 cm followed by light irrigation. When the seedlings grow upto 5-6 cm, the mulch material should be removed. The nursery beds should be kept weed free and irrigated twice a week.
The commercially recommended rootstocks for raising the cherry plants are Colt and Mazzard F 12/1, in the state of Himachal Pradesh.
The Colt is semi dwarf and is compatible with almost all var of the sweet cherry. It has good anchorage and is even resistant to gummosis, crown rot and is moderately resistant to stem pitting virus and bacterial canker but is susceptible to oak-root fungus. On the other hand, Mazzard F 12/1 is semi-vigorous and is difficult to root.
For Clonal Rootstock multiplication, mound or stool layering is commonly followed. The stool bed is generally established in the month of December by planting healthy mother plants with a space distance of 30-45 cm between plants and 60-70 cm between the rows.
The mother plants are pruned to 2.5 cm above the ground level before the new growth starts. When the shoots reach a height of 25-30 cm, their bases are covered with a mound of soil or saw dust with a height of 20-25 cm to enable their growth during Spring.
Also, the suckers are ringed at the base, to encourage rooting which is then covered with soil. IBA (7500 ppm) is applied to the ringed portion of the shoots in case of Mazzard F 12/1 during the Summers. The shoots are separated and lined out in nursery beds during winters.
These suckers are grafted in spring when they are well rooted with a diameter of 0.8 cm, else they are left in the bed until they become strong.
Colt Rootstocks are propagated through cuttings as they are easy to root. In February, the hardwood cuttings of 30-45 cm length and pencil thickness are taken and are treated with IBA (2500 ppm) for 10 seconds and then planted in nursery beds for rooting.
These rooted cuttings are then lined out in December and grafted with scion variety during March.
Leaves of a Cherry tree
The plants of cherries are generally propagated through grafting and the Tongue grafting is done during the month of February and March which gives a bud-take of more than 90%. In winter, the scion woods are collected for grafting when the buds become dormant and then they are packed in moss grass which is then wrapped in moist gunny bags. These are then stored at 2-4 degree Celsius till they are used for grafting purposes.
Land Preparation & Planting in Cherry Cultivation
In India, the cultivation is generally confined to hilly areas on sloped land. Counter or terrace system is followed for planting the fruits.
However, a square system of layout is recommended in Valley areas for establishing an orchard. The spacing of plants depends upon the fertility of the soil and the used variety of rootstock. In general, 6 m × 6 m spacing is recommended for plants raised on seedling rootstock in Himachal Pradesh.
Pits of dimensions of 1m × 1m × 1m are dug and then it is filled with a mixture of 35-40 kg of farmyard manure and half kg of superphosphate, one month before planting. These pits are filled up to 15 cm above the ground level. The best planting season is December to January.
Most of the cherry varieties are self sterile, so they need cross pollination but there are many crossed incompatible groups and the varieties which should not be planted together without a pollinizer.
Pollination in Sweet Cherry is very complex because the varieties are not totally incompatible with their own Pollen but they are also incompatible with the Pollen of some other varieties as well. So, care should be taken that their flowering period does not overlap and also they should not have the same sterility alleles.
For maximum pollination, the planting should be done in such a manner that the plants of one variety face the other in the planting arrangement. Also, 2-3 beehives per ha are recommended for Cherry Orchard for better pollination and fruit setting.
The cherry trees are trained on a modified leader system with the plants and headed back at 60 to 80 cm at the time of planting and the central leader is retained at 3-5 wide angled branches which are spirally around the tree with 20 to 25 cm apart in the first dormant pruning.
The lowest branch should be 40 to 60 cm above the ground level and the selected scaffold branches should be headed back to minimum with only one fourth of the growth pruned off. In 2nd dormant pruning 3-4 main branches are selected with one fourth growth pruned off and on each main scaffold well spaced 3-4 secondary branches are selected. After 3-4 years, the central leader is headed back and the lateral branches are allowed to grow. This results in the development of a strong and moderate spreading tree.
Pruning is important in Cherry plants so as to keep the centre of the tree open. The top of the tree is kept low for generating new growth. The Pruning is restricted to eliminate the dead, diseased or intercrossed branches. The fruits are borne laterally on spurs of 1 year old shoots who’s average productive life is 1-12 years requiring regular pruning.
Manure & Fertilizers
For better growth and quality fruits, cherry plants require essential nutrients and proper manure and fertilizers. The development of fruit and vegetative growth occurs simultaneously and at this time there is a high demand for mineral nutrients.
The amount of manure and fertilizers is influenced by the age or size of the tree, type of soil, fertility of soil, the cultural practices followed and the anticipated fruit yield.
The manure schedule recommended for sweet cherries in Himachal Pradesh is given as:
|Age of Tree
|Farmyard Manure (Kg)
|Calcium Ammonium nitrate (g)
|Muriate of Potash (g)
|10 and above
Farmyard manure is applied with a full dose of superphosphate and muriate of potash in December. Half dose of Nitrogen is applied in Spring before the flowering stage and the remaining half dose is applied one month later. The fertilizers are broadcasted in a tree basin about 20 cm away from the tree trunk.
Cherry can be grown under rainfed conditions due to sloppy lands and unavailability of irrigation water. Also, the distribution of rainfall is uneven throughout the year and it also has less rainfall during April and May month.
The plants are recommended to be watered frequently. Irrigation at weekly intervals during the fruit growth and development stage, is highly recommended for getting better food size and quality.
The cherry Orchard should be maintained under permanent sod with a clean basin management which should be regularly cleaned by hand weeding or by using weedicides. Diuron @ 4 kg per ha should be applied as pre-emergence and Paraquat @ 0.5% as post emergence should be applied for suppressing the growth of weeds till 4-5 months.
The tree basin should be mulched in April with 10 to 15 cm thick hay for controlling the weeds and also for conserving soil moisture. Green manure crops like Bean, Pea, Red clover and White clover can also be grown in tree basins for improving the texture of soil and its fertility.
Pests & Diseases
Cherries are attacked by a number of pests and diseases.
The most serious disease is Bacterial canker and the other diseases include Brown rot and Shot hole.
The insect pests include Cherry slug, Cherry aphid, Thrips and San Jose scale.
For controlling them, you can contact the local Agriculture plant protection guide or the Agricultural office.
Cherries are the first fruit to ripe in spring, so there are bird damages that often occur during early maturing varieties and they are also grown in isolated situations so they are most likely to be damaged. Flying foxes is also one of the problems in some areas.
For controlling them, bird nets are set up to provide total exclusion for the cherry crop. Some other controls for birds include scare guns, plastic or aluminium strips being hung in the trees, plastic hawks or some other visual deterrents.
Harvesting, Yield & Post Harvest Management
The yielding and the quality of cherry fruits are affected by the stage of maturity at which the fruits are harvested. Early picking can result in flat fruits and less yield as the fruits usually develop rapidly in the last few days before maturity is reached.
Harvesting the over ripe fruits can result in weight loss, volume and quality of the fruit. The optimum time of harvesting can be judged by the colour development, TSS and flavour. The fresh fruits are picked with a stem when the surface colour changes from Green to Red and while processing the fruits are picked without a stem.
On an average, Cherry trees yield about 15 to 20 kg of fruits per tree. However, the yield depends on the fertility of soil, the rootstock used, plant density and on the farm management practices. After harvesting the fruits are packed in boxes which are lined with paper and generally 5 Kg boxes are used for packing.