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NMSU Fruit Production Workshop Promotes Crop Diversification

ALBUQUERQUE - Northern New Mexico fruit growers can learn about conventional and organic pest control, bee pollination, and the latest techniques for pruning, grafting, and training apple and stone fruit trees during a free one-day workshop Feb. 14 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. The council expects to vote on changing its name to the New Mexico Fruit Growers Association in an effort to broaden its appeal among producers.

"We want the council and Extension's educational program to be more inclusive," said Ron Walser, an Extension fruit specialist based in Alcalde. "In the past, we dealt strictly with apple production at the annual council workshops, but by broadening the lecture series to cover small fruits and tree fruits we can help a wider range of growers and promote crop diversification."

The Apple Growers Council has about 30 members, most of whom grow other fruits, said council vice president Fred Martinez, a Dixon-based producer who grows peaches and cherries in addition to his 3,500 apple trees.

"We can all benefit from the new workshops, and my guess is a lot more growers will be interested in joining if we change the name and the focus of the council," Martinez said.

In addition to educational workshops, the council assists growers with marketing and promotion, and buys supplies in bulk to save members money.
The council also expects to approve new bylaws at the meeting to include tree fruits and small fruits.

During the workshop, Extension specialists will teach integrated pest management techniques to control spider mites, cherry fruit flies and codling moths. Lectures will include organic methods such as using predator insects to attack spider mites and new techniques against the codling moth that Walser is researching at NMSU's Agricultural Science Center at Alcalde.

Specialists will talk about fertilizing fruit crops, and training and pruning apple and stone fruit trees. Hands-on demonstrations will cover grafting fruit trees, particularly apple trees, Walser said.

"There's a lot of producer interest in getting new varieties up and growing fast, so we'll teach participants how to graft old trees over to new varieties in ways that will allow them to be back in production within a couple of years," Walser said.

Karen Strickler, a guest speaker from the University of Idaho known as the "bee lady," will teach how to build populations of native blue orchard bees, particularly efficient pollinators, Walser said.

The free, public workshop runs from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Santa Fe Cooperative Extension Complex at the Santa Fe County Fairgrounds, 3229 Rodeo Road, Santa Fe.

For more information, call Walser at (505) 852-2668, or Pat Torres at (505) 471-4711