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New Mexico State University

New Mexico State University

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NMSU offers workshop on pruning berry plants and fruit trees

ALBUQUERQUE - Growers and backyard gardeners can learn how to prune berry plants and fruit trees at a free, hands-on workshop March 3 at New Mexico State University's Sustainable Agricultural Science Center at Alcalde.

Ron Walser, fruit specialist at New Mexico State University's Sustainable Agriculture Science Center at Alcalde, prunes an apple tree as grower Greg Sopyn watches. NMSU photo by Kevin Robinson-Avila.

"Fruit trees need pruning to produce quality fruit and increase yields, but there are different techniques for each kind of tree and plant," said Ron Walser, a fruit specialist at the center. "At the workshop, we'll teach growers what to look for and how to make pruning cuts. Then we'll turn them loose to do some supervised pruning at the center."

Apple trees don't require much pruning, but growers need to cut back tree tops to make it easier to spray during the season and pick fruit at harvest, Walser said.

In contrast, peach trees need a lot of pruning to encourage new growth. "Without pruning, peach trees won't produce any new fruit," he said.

Apricots, cherries and plums need less pruning than peaches, but growers need to know where and how much to cut on those trees, Walser said.

There are also substantial differences for pruning berry plants.
"With raspberries, we cut the plant completely down to about an inch above the ground," Walser said. "For blackberries, we cut away all the canes that produced fruit last year and then trim back the new growth where fresh berries will appear this year."

At the workshop, participants will start out pruning raspberries, blackberries and grapes and progress to fruit trees, including peaches, apricots, cherries, plums and apples.

The workshop is being held in winter because it's generally the best time to prune fruit trees, Walser said. Plants are still dormant and the lack of leaves makes it easier to see where to cut. In addition, because plants will soon start growing again, wounds will heal faster than in fall, when plants are going dormant.

Walser will also teach participants how to train young trees and vines.
"We'll discuss trellised and freestanding systems for apple trees and 'Y' systems for peach trees," Walser said. "By pruning trees into 'Y' shapes, growers eliminate lateral branches to allow for higher-density planting and greater yields."
Participants should bring shears or loppers and dress warmly. The workshop will run from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.

After the workshop, the New Mexico Apple Council will hold its annual meeting at the center, Walser said. The Council will consider modifying its by-laws to allow more small-scale growers and producers of other kinds of fruit to join the organization. To get to the science center, turn west off Highway 68 at mile marker 7 (between Espaņola and Velarde).

For more information, or if you are an individual with a disability who is in need of an auxiliary aid or service to participate, call Walser at (505) 852-4241 or (505) 852-2668.