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NMSU Offers Fruit Field Day Aug. 19 at Alcalde

ALBUQUERQUE - A cornucopia of research on fruit production in northern New Mexico will be shared during an Aug. 19 fruit field day at New Mexico State University's Sustainable Agriculture Science Center at Alcalde.

Fruit specialist Ron Walser shows cold-hardy table and wine grapes grown at NMSU's Sustainable Agriculture Science Center at Alcalde. Dozens of varieties of small fruits and tree fruits will be on display during a fruit field day Aug. 19 at Acalde. (08/02/2004) (NMSU Agricultural Communications Photo by J. Victor Espinoza)

"It's an opportunity for fruit growers and gardeners to learn about state-of-the-art growing techniques while viewing and sampling new fruit varieties that we're introducing in this area," said fruit specialist Ron Walser.

Walser began testing organic growing methods in 2002 for late-blooming stone fruits such as peaches, cherries, apricots and plums, as well as small fruits such as raspberries, blackberries, strawberries and grapes.

"The basic goal is to help local growers diversify production with alternative, high-value crops like strawberries and raspberries while improving their growing methods to become more profitable," Walser said.

Participants will tour the center's 2.5-acre organic plot, now in its third growing season. "The apple and peach trees are full of fruit, and some of the small fruits like raspberries are in full bloom," Walser said. "There'll be plenty to sample."

The tour will highlight fruit varieties that appear suited to local growing conditions, Walser said. All the varieties were chosen for their cold-hardiness, but some varieties grow better than others in the region's alkaline soils, he said.

Walser will discuss organic growing methods, such as using compost and planting a cover crop such as clover between rows to enrich the soil. He will discuss integrated pest management, such as mating disruption to control codling moths and beneficial insects to counter spider mites and other pests.

"Growers are fighting spider mites like mad because they use chemicals that also kill beneficial insects," Walser said. "With organic controls, we haven't had to treat trees for spider mites even once, and I have yet to find a wormy apple in the orchard."

Walser will show how drip irrigation and under-tree microsprinklers can save water and protect against late-spring frost. The sprinklers?-which are new to northern New Mexico?-gently spray a mist of water on the orchard floor. During a cold snap, the moisture gives off heat as it freezes, warming up the orchard.

Participants will tour solar-heated hoop houses that can extend the growing season and learn about woven plastic weed barriers that also protect against bugs and rot and keep soil moist and warm.

Participants will tour an experimental apple orchard planted in 1996 to test early maturing apple varieties. Walser will talk about dwarf rootstock for high density plantings and trellis systems to increase apple yields.

The event is free and open to the public. Registration is at 9 a.m. The small fruit tour is from 10 a.m. to 11:30 a.m., followed by lunch. The tree fruit tour is from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m., followed by the New Mexico Apple Growers Council annual meeting.

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