Backyard fruit producers learn basics at symposium

Johnny Morgan  |  3/10/2016 3:21:42 PM

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Mariah Simoneaux discusses the importance of chilling hours in fruit tree production at the annual Backyard Fruit Production Symposium held at the Ascension Parish extension office on March 3. (Photo by Craig Roussel, LSU AgCenter)

(03/07/16) GONZALES, La. – Homeowners and gardeners interested in fruit production learned the basics at the annual Backyard Fruit Production Symposium at the Ascension Parish Extension Office on March 3.

This is the third year the symposium has been held in Ascension Parish, LSU AgCenter agent Mariah Simoneaux said.

“Topics in past years have included backyard citrus and home vegetable gardens,” she said.

AgCenter agent Craig Roussel conducted pruning and fertilizing demonstrations, while Simoneaux presented information on basic cultural practices and different varieties. AgCenter “Plant Doctor” Raj Singh presented information on common diseases in fruit trees.

Over 100 attendees came from 13 parishes and two Mississippi counties to hear the latest research-based information from AgCenter agents and specialists, Roussel said.

“We always get a good turnout in Ascension Parish, and we use their demonstration garden as a teaching tool,” Simoneaux said.

“We were extremely happy to see the number of people who came out to learn about backyard fruit production,” Roussel said. “People are really taking an interest in growing their own food. Sometimes we just think of vegetables, but Louisiana has great growing conditions for many fruit crops as well.”

The demonstration garden provides a good resource for hands-on experience, Roussel said.

“It allows the public to see how to care for backyard fruit.”

Plant diseases can be a major obstacle to backyard fruit production. Some diseases such as citrus greening, citrus canker, or bacterial leaf scorch of grapes and blueberries have no cure once the host plants are infected, Singh said.

“Other diseases such as bitter rot of apple, brown rot of peach or quince, and rust on mayhaw may ruin the entire crop. Lack of management practices and fewer fungicide options make backyard fruit production even more difficult,” Singh said.

Backyard fruit producers must adopt integrated disease management to get the long term benefits, he said.

“Remember, growing healthy trees by incorporating good cultural practices can be really fruitful,” Singh said.

It is important to do your research before planting, Roussel said. “Find out what the chilling hours and pollination requirements are. Some fruit plantings require more pruning and attention than others. They can be low or high maintenance.”

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