Viability of growing cherry trees out of season

Asked September 3, 2020, 2:57 PM EDT

Do you know if it would be possible to produce Dark Sweet Cherries out of season in Controlled Environment? If so, would it be possible to have more than one fruiting harvest per year using this method? I realize it might not be worth it to pour those resources into even a dwarf tree, but I was thinking of combining CEA with high density planting techniques while training the dwarf trees to grow on a diagonal plane to keep them manageable and harvest-able indoors.

Ottawa County Michigan

2 Responses

I posed this question to Dr. Greg Lang, Department of Horticulture at Michigan State University. He has done many trials with high density sweet cherries, several in tunnel plantings. He responded with the following:

"It’s definitely feasible to grow cherries out of season - I’ve actually fielded a number of inquiries about this from around the world, maybe people with lots of extra COVID thinking time on their hands. It is just incredibly expensive to do it, so you’d have to pretty much have a guaranteed high-end market identified before embarking so one could run the numbers to see if it would pay off. In Michigan, you’d have to do it in a heated greenhouse-type set-up, probably potted trees so they could be moved into refrigerated storage and brought out when needed (and possibly be put back in to begin chilling early). You’d have to manipulate senescence and entering into endodormancy, break endodormancy through artificial and/or natural chilling (sub-freezing weather does nothing for breaking endodormancy), and then heat them in the greenhouse when its cold outside. Adding supplemental light would help, since off-season also means short days of sunlight. The greenhouse would have to be able to support and shed snow loads.

Cropping the trees twice a year is unlikely to work in terms of producing two crops of high quality cherries, but in theory, feasible with enough manipulation and controlled fertilization. One might also add supplemental CO2 during the growing season to increase photosynthetic gain."

So this appears to be a research project rather than a promising profitable enterprise.

Thanks for the reply! I didn't expect it to be a successful business venture to begin with, but it's exciting to know it's at least possible.