BAKERSFIELD, Calif. – International Fruit Genetics LLC (IFG), the world’s largest table grape breeder, which boasts over 48 patented table grape varieties and ten patented sweet cherry varieties, is expanding its low-chill cherry program and closing a critical gap that has eluded retailers and cherry lovers for years.
Given that IFG’s low-chill cherries are all early harvest, retailers can now offer more IFG cherry varietals much earlier in the season, providing a make-or-break experience that will entice the public to return for future purchases.
The low-chill cherries will be sold in the U.S. and in other countries as the plantings start to mature, which in turn allows for more IFG cherries to bloom early in the season.
“Early is important, but there is a caveat – these cherries must be fully formed, large, tasty, and crunchy, with great flavor that will set the tone for a great cherry season,” says Alwyn van Jaarsveld, International Commercial Cherry Manager, IFG. “Low-chill cherries allow retailers to begin the cherry season several weeks earlier, but they must do so without disappointing consumers – which means we cannot allow the early cherries to be small, tasteless, or soft.”
Low-Chill Development Also Means Hardy, Tasty, Large Cherries
Over the past few years, according to van Jaarsveld, the low-chill cherry program at IFG has flourished, allowing growers to harvest cherries with fewer “chill hours” during the winter, resulting in the fruit ripening more quickly. In February, IFG announced adding more cherry varietals to its low-chill program, including the new trademarked names to its Cheery Cherry™ line, including Cheery Cupid™, Cheery Nebula™, and Cheery Chap™.
There are many benefits to the IFG low-chill program besides providing cherries earlier in the season. This includes producing cherries that are more uniform in quality — offering hardy varietals that are less susceptible to damage from either hot drought temperatures or excessive rains while staying fresh despite potentially long shipping and storage durations. With cutting-edge technology, IFG’s Research & Development team can naturally breed low-chill cherries, ensuring the fruit can withstand several challenges and remain fresh, large, and tasty.
In response, growers worldwide are beginning to plant IFG’s Cheery Cherry varietals– most notably in Chile, which has become an essential cherry-growing region for IFG.
“We welcomed growers in the orchards of Northern Chile, in Ovalle, IV Region, to showcase our Cheery Cherry™ varieties,” says van Jaarsveld. “In 2016, the first Cheery Cherry™ variety to be commercially planted was Cheery Moon™, and acreage for all Cheery Cherry™ varieties has expanded to more than 120 acres (50 ha) today.”
In addition to Chile, IFG licensees are starting to harvest low-chill cherries in areas where cherries are rarely grown due to warmer climates, such as Spain and Australia.
Given the growing popularity of the IFG low-chill cherry program, many growers are now installing the proper cooling and other infrastructure needed to make the low-chill efforts a reality.
“Our growers now have access to the markets, pack houses, and cooling and shipping routes – everything they need to grow and distribute quality low-chill cherries,” says van Jaarsveld.
“And this is very lucrative for the growers and the retailers as IFG has helped them expand their window for cherry season.”
Headquartered in Bakersfield, Calif., IFG is the world’s largest premium fruit-breeding company. Founded in 2001, the company is internationally recognized for its top quality, non-GMO fruit varieties in the table grape, cherry and raisin industries that were pioneered by the company’s co-founder and former Lead Plant Breeder, world-renowned fruit scientist Dr. David Cain. Following Dr. Cain’s retirement, the team is now led by Dr. Chris Owens. IFG patents and licenses its varieties to worldwide marketers and growers, with licensees in 18 countries and its fruit actively marketed in over 30 countries. For more information, visit www.ifg.world.