Earlier this month, PNW Ag attended the Pre-Harvest Cherry Tour, hosted in Oregon. Here we spoke with Shara Green, a sales executive with Qualterra.

Shara Green: I am both a sales executive with Qualterra Ag and a fourth generation commercial tree fruit farmer in the Lower Yakima Valley, so I grow cherries and pears myself. Qualterra is a startup company, an innovative ag technology company that's based out of Washington State, and we do three things. We grow clean plants from clean plant material that comes to us from the clean plant centers. We turn it into tissue culture, and then when they're ready to be transferred into soil, we transfer them into soil and then grow them up into rootstocks over our controlled horticultural platform.

The plants go from a tissue culture lab into our controlled environmental greenhouse until they're ready to go into farmers' fields. So we can guarantee that they are 100% screened and disease-free, ready to go in the ground, and then farmers can then bud them out with whatever variety of cherry, apple, or pear. We also do wine grapes and hops as well.

The second thing that we do is we produce an agricultural biochar, which is a soil amendment that can also be incorporated into farmers' soil for carbon credits. We are a maker of a patented technology of biomass processing units, so we can take orchard waste and agricultural residuals, whether it's hop waste, vineyard waste, orchard waste, or wheat straw, which we make our certified biochar out of, and that is a way to take agricultural waste and turn it into something that farmers can use into new plantings to invigorate the soil.

The third thing that we do is we have a full-scale molecular testing lab in Pullman, Washington, where we screen for little cherry disease. We have DNA true-to-type verification. We can do RNA sequencing on a genomic sequencer, and we test for a lot of different viruses and viroids.


The reason why Ashley Thompson at OSU invited us back here —this is our second year coming to the pre-harvest tour cherry field day— is to connect with growers and see if they can utilize us, especially for virus detection in their cherry orchards. As most people in the industry are well aware, Western X and little cherry disease is starting to run rampant. We've had a lot of problems in Washington state. People in Oregon are definitely starting to see things, and so we're happy to let people know who we are so that we can screen their material, they can send it in to us, and we can turn around testing very, very quickly for them so that they can take charge and figure out what they should be doing to help with that challenging disease in cherry orchards.


PNW Ag: It's obviously going well. Are you going to do other events throughout the year?

Shara Green: Yeah, we try to make a presence at as many of the educational extension field days for WSU and OSU as much as possible. We'd love to get more involved around the Pacific Northwest, whatever that means. We're very educational, and we just want to connect with people and help them in whatever capacity we can, especially as a startup company. We're making all kinds of innovations. A lot of our capital is raised off of grants. We have a grant specialist on staff, and so we've gotten quite a few millions of dollars, especially surrounding our biomass processing and our biochar, but also the molecular screening, because the future of our industry is totally dependent on clean plants and keeping things controlled and disease-free.

We just got a huge grant to explore and study virus cleaning in tree fruit material, and so we were super lucky to get awarded that. That's a big hot topic, especially in Washington state, to make sure that new inbound varieties that people want to propagate for the next newest apple can get cleaned up and make sure that it is virus-free before any sort of commercial nursery propagation happens. So there's a lot of different aspects and applications for the science that we're doing. We have a really talented team of PhDs and genomic scientists in our employ, and we just want to have conversations with people. We want to introduce ourselves and see if we can be of use in the industry, because we want the Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana, and so forth areas to be successful for years to come, for generations to come.

Pre-Harvest Cherry Tour 2024

Photographs from the 2024 pre-harvest cherry tour held near The Dalles, Oregon.

Gallery Credit: Pacific Northwest Ag Network

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