2013 Texas Fruit Conference Agenda Posted

As a follow up to last week’s post, I wanted to add the finalized agenda to the two events that are scheduled for the end of September, first two days of October.  Please feel free to contact Monte, Larry or me if you have any questions about our the fruit conference or Russ Wallace if you need more information on the High Tunnel ConferenceTex Fruit Conf 2013_Page_1

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Opens PDF of High Tunnel Flyer

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2nd Annual Texas Fruit Conference

Make Plans to Attend the Second Annual Texas Fruit Conference! And Texas High Tunnel Conference!

Texas Fruit Conference Banner

Two great educational events for fresh fruit producers and enthusiasts in Texas!

Dates are set as follows

Texas Fruit Conference; Monday September 30th & Tuesday, October 1st:  As we did with our first meeting in 2012, we are developing a 1 & ½ day educational program that will provide timely topics and practical fruit growing and marketing information for new and experienced fruit growers, covering a diverse slate of topics and orchard crops!

Conference Conveners: Monte Nesbitt, Larry Stein & Jim Kamas, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension


Texas High Tunnel Conference; Wednesday, October 2nd; This one day program will explore growing strawberries and other high value horticultural crops in season-extending high tunnels. Growers considering new/alternative crops and marketing seasons will be exposed to the opportunities and challenges that high tunnels offer.

Conference Convener: Russ Wallace, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension


Both  Events To Be Held at the Best Western Old Town Center Hotel, Bryan, Texas.

Website:  http://book.bestwestern.com/bestwestern/US/TX/Bryan-hotels/BEST-WESTERN-PREMIER-Old-Town-Center/Hotel-Overview.do?propertyCode=44623

Conference Room Rate for this event is $93.00/ night.


On-site/In-Person Registration set at $90 for Texas Fruit Conference ($80 online) & $55 for High Tunnel Conference.

Special Combo Online Registration for both events (2.5 days): $125.00

(additional discounts for AgriLife Agents)

Registration—Online Registration will open in mid July at http://agriliferegister.tamu.edu

Join Us in October!!


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Fruit Growing in Egypt

I have been remiss in not posting more often, but its been a whirlwind trip here with much to see and do.  The fruit growers here are amazing and what is perhaps most remarkable is the number and kinds of crops growing side by side.    Here is what I have been seeing on a daily basis. Seen a number of first class fruit nurseries growing peach, pear, pomegranate, all kinds of citrus, mango, you name it.


And here are just a few more fields.


Many different kinds of table grapes,  mostly grown for exportIMAG0656

In some places the groundwater has been pumped so extensively that the salinity has increased to the point where peaches and grapes can no longer be grown.  In this farm, such former crops have been replaced by 400 fadan (4200 sq. meters or 1.038 acres) of pomegranates.  The grower plans to increase the planting to 1000 fadan withing the next couple of years.


Same farm, here Citrus is interplanted with Date Palm


And in many places, banana is a good rotational crop, one year to establish, harvest two years, then back to long term perennial crops






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May 21

Its Friday, the first day of the weekend here and its been a hectic week.  Did some touring this morning and early afternoon, but finally have a chance to get a few more posts in on what I have been seeing.  Day two in the field was a good one as well.  Started out in a peach nursery operation east of Sadat City where Nemaguard seed are planted out in a nursery row, budded, then forced to produce new peach and apricot trees for commercial fruit production.

IMAG0212Above is the nursery as its being budded.  After fifteen days, the trees are topped to force the scion buds and create a budded tree.  Trees to the right have just been budded, trees to the left have just been forced.


Budding is hard work, and while I was having tea with the nursery owner, the budding crew was taking a well deserved break with tea and the shisha.


On to other fields, the owners, brothers, nephews, uncles, there was quite the crowd.  First class peach and grape operation.  Well, that’s what I was shown and asked to help with, but there are  mango, banana, apples, you name it grown all around.  All with windbreak, superb weed control and insect and disease management, I mean these guys have their act together.  All going for a specific window of marketing in the EU. Here I am with the managing nephew and his staff of engineers.

IMAG0236The professional field crew and the younger owners tend to prefer western dress.  They are extremely bright, really know their pomology and viticulture and have a great sense of humor.  I really enjoy these interactions personally and professionally.  The older management crowd (uh, I guess that means my age) and many field workers still wear more traditional clothing.  There is a mosque on most farms where workers and owners pray together.  Here, another tea time with the big bosses.IMAG0228

You get a real sense of reality driving around.  Where cultivation has been established, the growers and the land is very productive, in the western part of the delta, its ground water that tends to a bit saline, but in the eastern part, its water from a series of channels off of the Nile.  Here is what it looks like where it is not cultivated. And, oh, yes the palm was planted.


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First Day in the Field

Had my first day in the field today, about 90km north of Cairo toward Alexandria. And this is who I am as they introduce me:


What used to be called the desert road which was until 30 years ago, just that, sand.  At that time, land sold for 50 Egyptian pounds/fadan,  the equivalent of 75 cents per acre.  Water and drip irrigation has changed that and now the land goes for $10,000 per acre, up.  They started me off with their high end producers, all for export to the EU.  First class operation.  Visited peach orchards which had just completed harvest and seedless table grape vineyard, all trained on overhead pergola and partially covered with plastic where harvest was about two weeks from being completed.



We talked varieties, zinc and iron nutrition, timing and placement of nitrogen and reviewed their pest management plans, but other than an exchange of ideas, I had no concrete help for these folks… they don’t need it.  Their major limitations are labor and shipping logistics.  Any of this sound familiar?


Windbreaks are planted everywhere.  April and May are the windy months when fruit is present and for export, everything has to be cosmetically perfect.


And, I would be remiss if I did not add how incredibly hospitable the Egyptian people have been to me.  Here I am with Mr. Hawdy Muhammed, farm manager of Belco enjoying pita, spiced tuna, buffalo cheese and fava beans and pickled peppers.  Yum.

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Greetings from Cairo

Had an opportunity to volunteer for a US AID project in Egypt, so I took it.  Will be working with peach, plum and apricot growers in the Nile delta.  Departed Friday, through JFK, to Milan to Cairo.  Got here yesterday, good nights sleep and its Sunday now, first day of the work week here and have my briefing at noon.



Should be an interesting two weeks and I hope to add photos every couple of days while I am here.jk

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Peach problems

Scott Korcz writes in and adds some photos about a problem with his ‘Harvester’ peach tree this spring.  Here are the photos he supplied



You can see that Scott has a good mulch layer down to conserve moisture and eliminate weed competition, but this tree has a couple of problems going on.  First, this tree is showing classical symptoms of insufficient chilling.  These trees should grow out of this during the summer, but the lack of lateral budbreak will need to be addressed in the next dormant pruning.

Also have some nutrient deficiencies going on here.  These trees need nitrogen.  The general yellow color of the older leaves tells us its time to add a little N.  With a wood chip mulch, it will be important to water it in well so the nitrogen travels through the chips and down into the root zone where it is available to the plant.  I also see both iron and zinc deficiency on the newer foliage.  Iron chelate applied to the soil and watered in well will overcome the iron problem, but the zinc problem is a little tougher to deal with on peach trees.  Zinc sulfate can be applied to the soil and watered in, but tends to get tied up pretty quickly in the soil, so frequent applications may be needed.  Zinc sulfate should not be sprayed on peach trees- it will defoliate them.  Over time, as the mulch breaks down, natural chelates will be formed in the soil and this should be less of a problem.  Just another reason to mulch your trees!






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Fruit Grafting Masters

The Womack Family in DeLeon, Texas, is an incredible resource for commercial and casual fruit growers in Texas.  Womack Nursery was started in 1937 by James H. Womack. Larry J. Womack took over in 1964 and still grafts fruit and pecan trees today! His son, Larry Don Womack, currently leads the business which supplies fruit and pecan trees, berries, grapes, graftwood, grafting supplies, roses and some shade and ornamental plants to commercial growers and homeowners alike. They are an important source for appropriate varieties of fruits for the state of Texas.

Womack Nursery hosted an open house, grafting workshop on April 17th at their headquarters west of DeLeon on State Highway 6.  Approximately 56 people got to see and listen to tips and techniques of pecan grafting, including the inlay bark graft, 4-flap graft, and patch bud methods. Many of us in the world of research and extension think we know how to graft, but nurserymen like the Womacks and their skilled laborers are the real “masters of grafting”.  They literally perform these techniques hundreds of thousands of time, and there is a different level of skill and experience that they are able to share.

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Larry J. (background) and Larry Don Womack (foreground) beginning their Spring Grafting Workshop

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Larry J. Womack demonstrates pecan inlay bark graft

Larry Womack grafting pecans

Experienced grafting hands

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Fig cuttings growing, a follow up

First,  my apologies for not being more regular in my posting.  As I am  sure you all know, this is the time of year us fruit people are in the field most of the time.  We have also been trying to keep funding for our grape projects, so needless to say its been hectic.

In response to a request, I wanted to post a photo or two of what happened to our fig cuttings after we cut them and placed them in callus boxes.  fig cutting compSix weeks later callus had formed at the basal end of the cuttings and roots had begun to grow out of the callus tissue.


At this point, the cuttings were planted into one gallon pots with soil-less mix, no fertilizer and allowed to force.  About two weeks later shoots began to force and the foliage expanded on the growing cuttings.


This photo was taken about two weeks ago and as you can see, we had a great take.  Yesterday we applied our first light fertilizer application.  We like to use Mir-Acid and even though the figs don’t so much need it, we add in a little iron chelate to keep the foliage of all our greenhouse material a dark green.  Fredericksburg city water is pretty easy on plants, but still has lots of calcium that over time will bind iron making the chelate a good addition to our routine. Pomegranate cuttings which were taken a couple of weeks later were stuck yesterday.  Good callus had formed, but they are a little slower to start generating roots.  Photos of them soon.

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Pruning Pears

Well, the cool spells that are coming in have helped hold trees and vines back a little, but every crop we work with is showing signs of life.  Grapevines have wooly buds, blackberries are forcing, peaches are pushing, one more extended warm spell will mean bloom and budburst in everything.  Even pears, normally one of our later blooming crops is showing signs of life.  Last week on a windy, cloudy day, I spent a few hours pruning in our pear block in Fredericksburg.  We have fourteen European hybrid and Asian hybrid varieties, all with quality superior to that of ‘Kieffer’ and ‘Orient’, that we have been growing without insecticide or fungicide input.  So far at least, fire blight, while present, has not been a serious problem to our block.  We planted Pyrus betulifolia whips in the winter of 2009 and budded them that spring.  Here is a picture of the trees in the spring of  2011.DSC06013

So with pears starting to force, it was a pleasure for me to take an afternoon away from the computer and the phone and get these trees pruned and trained.  We have been using an array of tricks to break the strong apical dominance of many of the European hybrid varieties, some with success and a few setbacks.  At first, we tried an old trick taught to me by Ron Perry who taught Hort 319 and 401 at A&M in the late 70′s.  Ron asked his wife for some ruined pantyhose, cut them into lengths and tied them around the base of the tree.  From there he tied erect pear limbs down with bailing twine- one end on the limb and the twine secured to the hose on the trunk.  This allowed for the trunk to grow and not (theoretically) get girdled by the hose.  In our case, maybe it was the cheap hose we bought at Dollar General and maybe it was how vigorously the pear trees grew, but we did have some girdling.  With high winds, there was some tree breakage.  Luckily, most broke above the graft union, so we had scion re-growth.  Pain to deal with, but at least we didn’t lose the trees.

We have since gone to limited pruning and the use of limb weights to train pears.  The problem, is that with numerous strong erect shoots competing for dominance in the pear trees, if you prune most of them off, the invigorating action of dormant pruning means that you have twice as many dominant shoots the following year.  The trick is to break apical dominance without the invigoration of pruning.  Here is one of our ‘Ayres’ trees going into its fifth growing season.  Trees have made substantial growth in the past two years



By breaking apical dominance, lateral growth is initiated and with adequate sunlight exposure, these laterals turn into fruiting spurs.  Spurs are perennial fruiting structures and spur development puts these pear trees into a bearing mode rather than a vegetative mode.  Some varieties, like ‘Warren’ are not at all precocious… some take ten years for first crop if left to their own devices.  Triggering early spur development helps get them into production faster.


Pears are strong terminal bearers, so developing lateral growth means more flowers and more fruit. Now that the trees are larger, we use nominal pruning to remove the limbs growing back in to the interior of the tree and limb weights to increase the angle of scaffolds limbs and help develop more fruiting spurs.  The weights consist of 20 oz Dixie cups with 12 guage tw wire formed into a hook, filled with concrete.  After three years the cups are falling apart, but the weights are still in good shape.


These tricks worked last year and we had a great bloom and fruit set.  Unfortunately, on May 7th, we had thirty minutes of golf ball sized hail that beat the crud out of everything.  Figs were almost completely defoliated and it ruined our crop on pomegranates, pears and most of the vineyard.  Here you can see some pretty nasty wounds caused by the hail, but fortunately, the trees are in good health and the wounds have healed over remarkably well.




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