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New Mexico State University

New Mexico State University

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NMSU Workshop Will Discuss New Fruit Crops and Growing Techniques

ALBUQUERQUE - New Mexico fruit growers can learn about techniques to protect crops from frost, new fruit varieties and pest controls that won't harm beneficial insects at a free workshop Feb. 17 in Santa Fe.

The event is co-sponsored by New Mexico State University's Cooperative Extension Service and the New Mexico Apple Growers Council, which will hold its annual meeting following the workshop.

"We'll offer new techniques and advice for fruit growers to protect their crops against frost, pests and other problems," said Ron Walser, an Extension fruit specialist at NMSU's Sustainable Agriculture Science Center at Alcalde. "That's important because the growers lost a lot of fruit to late-spring frost in the last two growing seasons."

Walser will discuss the benefits of under-tree microsprinklers, which are new to New Mexico. Microsprinklers spray a gentle mist of water in the orchard that can protect trees and small fruits against cold because the water gives off heat as it freezes, warming up the orchard floor.

"The sprinklers heated our research plots by about two degrees compared to temperatures outside the orchard last year," Walser said. "Two degrees can mean a huge amount in a frost. It can be the difference between saving and losing a crop."

Walser will also present 2003 yield results for the center's small fruit trials. Walser is testing cold-hardy raspberries, blackberries and strawberries to introduce new high-value fruits among northern growers.

The crops, planted in 2002, showed promise in their first full growing season. Walser harvested a pound of strawberries per plant and 3.5 pounds of blackberries per plant in 2003. Raspberry yields equaled 10,000 pounds per acre.

"Not all the varieties will grow well here, but some are just outstanding," Walser said. "Average production for raspberries is about 7,000 pounds per acre, so ours is way above average. These fruits offer real potential for New Mexico growers."

NMSU entomologist Carol Sutherland will discuss integrated pest management. Apple Growers President Ed Costanza, a large-scale grower in Belen, will also discuss efforts to control coddling moths with pheromone puffers that disrupt mating cycles and pesticides that won't harm beneficial insects.

Walser, who tested those methods at Alcalde, said Costanza nearly eliminated coddling moths in his orchard last year using the new techniques. "It was about the best control he's ever had," Walser said. "It was the first year he didn't have to spray for spider mites because he avoided killing off beneficial predator insects."

Craig Maple of the New Mexico Department of Agriculture will discuss state regulations that allow growers to sell fresh fruits and vegetables directly to public schools in Albuquerque and Santa Fe.

The workshop runs from 9 a.m. to noon at the Cooperative Extension complex at the Santa Fe County Fairgrounds, 3229 Rodeo Road. Apple growers will meet from 1:30 p.m. to 3 p.m.

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 the workshop, please contact Walser or Torres in advance.