What is in this article?:
- First red tart cherry planting takes root in Arizona
- Organic production
- Arizona weather a key
- The first planting of red tart cherry trees in Arizona is two years old and grower Bob Weaver is cautiously optimistic about the new venture.
- The 40-acre farm, Omena Organics, is located near Sunzonia in Cochise County’s Sulphur Springs Valley.
- High wind will likely be Weaver’s top challenge.
Weaver’s Arizona farm, Omena Organics, utilizes organic production practices with the exception of glyphosate applications for weed control. Weaver will switch to organic weed measures to qualify for official organic status three years prior to the first harvest.
The trees are the deep tap root-based Montmorency variety on the Mahaleb rootstock. Tree spacing is 14 feet-by-22 feet.
The soil is sandy loam with the top foot acidic and then alkaline further below. About 16 inches under the soil surface is a “gravel pit” which Weaver says increases soil aeration and water flow. The soil pH was 5.4 when Weaver arrived. Added calcium lime has increased the pH level to 6.5.
A soil sample prior to planting revealed ample potassium in the soil, but most was unavailable to the tree. Weaver added K-Mag – a blend of potassium, magnesium, and sulfur – to the soil and takes petiole samples to keep tabs on mineral levels.
The water source is well water pumped from about 600 feet deep which delivers about 50-gallons per minute. This spring, 9 gallons of water per tree per week was delivered by surface drip irrigation. Watering will increase to about 12 gallons per tree a week during the summer.
Weaver is applying Quantum Growth biological products which include high levels of purple photosynthetic bacteria. While low levels of the bacteria are already found in the soil, Weaver says Quantum Growth allows plants to pull nitrogen from the atmosphere for conversion to sugar at a tenfold rate. Another benefit, he says, is improved water retention in the soil.
What are Weaver’s red tart cherry yield expectations?
“That’s the $64 question,” Weaver smiled. “This farm is the first red tart cherry operation in Arizona so there is no history for comparison. I will make history one way or the other through success or failure.”
At tree maturity, Weaver hopes to average about 100 to 110 pounds of fruit per tree – 400,000 to 450,000 pounds for the entire farm. Production will vary depending on the weather. Weaver yields 100 to 140 pounds per tree on his Michigan operation.