Researchers hope to prevent cherry viruses in Oregon

The viruses can't be cured, so they have to be prevented

Joseph Dames and KOIN 6 News Staff - HOOD RIVER, Ore. (KOIN) -- There is a new concern threatening local cherries after viruses have been tracked in Washington.

Researchers are tying to determine if Oregon orchards will deal with the same issue.

"I've been farming my own cherries for 19 years," Jeff Heater, who owns an orchard in The Dalles.

Each season Heater has to worry about his product.

"If you're a cherry grower, you have a long list of things to be concerned about," Heater said. "It's a huge gamble to be a cherry farmer."

That's where Oregon State University researcher Lauri Lutes and Professor Jay Pscheidt come in. They want to be ready for any viruses that may come to cherry trees in Oregon.

"For a couple of decades, Washington has been dealing with these viruses and we just didn't have any information here in Oregon, so we just started the process to see if we have the same viruses or not and we are inclined to believe they are down here too," Scheidt said.

They went across Oregon, surveying commercial production regions to look for cherry leaf roll virus, viruses caused by microscopic worms and little cherry disease.

"We need to know more about cherry viruses," Heater said. "It's not a huge threat for the cherry industry. It's one of those little nagging issues like a toothache, it never really goes away and sometimes it will flare up a bit but it's not something we want to continue overlooking."

Lutes said there's no cure for these viral diseases, so it's important to prevent them.

"I'm hoping to help the Oregon sweet cherry industry to help them know what is out there so they can make the best decisions possible," Lutes said.

Heater knows what to expect and is ready for a good cherry season this year.

"We're looking for a banner year in 2018," he said.


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