New orchards, research results highlight fruit, vegetable field day

(05/23/16) HAMMOND, La. – Louisiana fruit and vegetable growers had an opportunity to view two new orchards for olives and figs during an industry field day on May 19 at the LSU AgCenter Hammond Research Station.

The demonstration orchards are long-term projects, with 96 young olive trees planted in the spring of 2016 and 88 young fig trees planted so far, said LSU AgCenter horticulturist Jason Stagg.

The olive trees will take four to five years before they begin producing fruit, said LSU AgCenter horticulturist Allen Owings.

“Olives are big in Texas, and we hope to be able to find out if they can be a viable industry in Louisiana,” Owings said.

Owings reviewed recommended practices for growing olives and noted that the trees aren’t insect- or disease-free.

The figs are “true to type” varieties gathered from an orchard at the LSU AgCenter Botanic Gardens at Burden. This permanent collection of LSU-bred figs and other varieties that perform well in the South and have been relocated to Hammond, where they can be propagated for commercial use, Stagg said.

“The orchard is helping preserve the historic AgCenter fig breeding work done by Ed O’Rourke and Charlie Johnson,” Stagg said.

AgCenter fruit and vegetable specialist Kiki Fontenot reviewed results of recent variety trials for carrots and squash.

The first-year carrot trials were conducted at three locations in Tangipahoa, Pointe Coupee and Tensas parishes.

“We’ll do these trials again to get a handle on how well these varieties perform for more than one year,” she said.

The squash trials haven’t been completely harvested yet, Fontenot said, “so we’re sharing our notes on what we’re seeing so far.”

Fontenot also provided information on herbicide treatments for watermelon production on bare fields without the use of plastic mulch.

In addition to suppressing weeds, the chemicals can provide other benefits. “If you use herbicides, you get more sunlight and less food-borne pathogens on the melons,” she said.

With the success of large tea farms in South Carolina and Mississippi, Louisiana growers could benefit from growing tea as an alternative crop to supplement their income, said AgCenter plant researcher Yan Chen.

“Tea is the second beverage next to water worldwide,” Chen said. “It had a $10.2 billion sales value in the U.S. in 2014 and a rising market projection for the next 10 years.”

Growers can harvest high-value tea from the top leaves from the first and second flushes of leaves in the spring, she said.

With the release of new blueberry varieties in the past few years, growers should look at how they could perform in their operations, said Eric Stafne, an extension and research professor at Mississippi State University. He reviewed the attributes of new rabbiteye and Southern high bush varieties.

Spotted wing drosophila fruit fly can be a problem in blueberry production, Stafne said. Found throughout the United States, the flies begin infesting fruits when they are green and can cause significant damage to fruit.

The fruit flies can be controlled by early harvest and by field sanitation. Chemical control, including organic options, is available.

Fruit and vegetable growers can qualify for special tax deductions for donating unmarketable or excess produce, said Megan Nuismer Herrington with the Second Harvest Food Bank of Greater New Orleans and Acadiana.

Food banks work with donors and supply food pantries throughout the area, she said. The organization can work with growers to pick up and distribute their production.

Federal laws provide opportunities for tax deductions for food donations along with Good Samaritan liability protection, she said.

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LSU AgCenter horticulturists Jason Stagg, left, and Allen Owings explain during a fruit and vegetable growers field day on May 20 that a new fig orchard is being established at the AgCenter Hammond Research Station to provide “true to type” fig cuttings for propagation. Photo by Rick Bogren

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LSU AgCenter fruit and vegetable specialist Kiki Fontenot presents information on carrot trials during a fruit and vegetable growers field day on May 20 at the AgCenter Hammond Research Station. Photo by Rick Bogren

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Louisiana fruit and vegetable growers at a field day on May 20 display interest in a new olive orchard being established at the AgCenter Hammond Research Station. The orchard had 96 young olive trees that will be evaluated for their productivity in south Louisiana in the coming years. Photo by Rick Bogren

5/23/2016 2:48:08 PM
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