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New Mexico State University

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NMSU Teaches Fruit Growers To Protect Crops from Cold and Pests

ALBUQUERQUE - Northern New Mexico fruit growers can learn how to protect trees and vines from frost and insects, insure crops against weather damage, and improve sales through direct marketing as part of a Feb. 13 workshop in Santa Fe.

The event is co-sponsored by New Mexico State University's Cooperative Extension Service and the New Mexico Apple Growers Council.

"Fruit growers have faced some real challenges, including drought, frost, pests and marketing problems, all of which lowered yields last year," said Ron Walser, an Extension fruit specialist at NMSU's Sustainable Agriculture Science Center at Alcalde. "We want to teach growers to better withstand such hardships and increase profits."

Frost on April 21 and 22 wiped out 30 to 40 percent of the fruit harvest in northern New Mexico last year, Walser said. Some apple growers lost more than 90 percent of their fruit after temperatures dipped below 25 degrees.

However, one positive consequence is that trees have stored more energy to produce apples this year, foreshadowing good yields. "There's a good bud set on trees now because of the lack of fruit last year," Walser said. "Drought will still be a problem, but we're looking forward to a good harvest this year."

To help protect against frost, Extension specialists will teach about hoop houses and high tunnels. "These are low-cost cold frames that are easy to construct and that are built with high walls to allow tractors to get inside," Walser said.

A U.S. Department of Agriculture representative will discuss programs that help growers insure crops against weather-related losses and that allow growers to defer up to 75 percent of costs for installing water-efficient irrigation systems.

Harold Larsen, research pathologist and Extension fruit disease specialist at Colorado State University, will speak about conventional and organic orchard pest controls. NMSU specialists will discuss integrated pest management of spider mites and coddling moths, and Walser will review new fruit varieties being tested at Alcalde.

Karen Strickler from the University of Idaho will teach how to build populations of native blue orchard bees, which are particularly efficient pollinators, Walser said.

Craig Maple of the New Mexico Department of Agriculture (NMDA) will discuss new state regulations that allow apple growers to sell directly to public schools for lunch programs. Schools will begin accepting other types of fruit this year, Walser said.

Espaņola grower Don Bustos will discuss advantages of farmers markets, and a panel of growers will share their experiences with marketing and other topics.

The Apple Council will speak about two refrigerated semi-truck containers it plans to buy with a $20,000 grant from NMDA. Growers can use the containers to ship fruit to markets, Walser said.

Participants can preregister for $5 or pay $10 at the door. The workshop runs from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Cooperative Extension Complex at the Santa Fe County Fairgrounds, 3229 Rodeo Road.

For more information, call Walser at (505) 852-2668, or Pat Torres at (505) 471-4711.
If you are an individual with a disability who is in need of an auxiliary aid or service to participate in theworkshop, please contact Walser or Torres in advance.