Would you like to learn from the experts the fundamentals of fruit-and-nut tree biology in a short, affordable, hands-on course? Then you should plan ahead. The 2014 Pomology Short Course offered by UC Davis faculty and UC Cooperative Extension specialists is full, and a waiting list for 2015 is already forming.

That doesn’t surprise Jon Parnagian, a third-generation fruit-and-nut grower and packer from Fowler Packing Company in Fresno.

“I attended their first course in February 2013 and it was great,” Parnagian said. “They keep the class size small — only 40 people — so you have plenty of one-on-one time with the instructors. It really helped me understand the science behind why we do what we do.”

The 2014 pomology short course will be held from Feb. 24 to March 6 at UC Davis. The 2015 course will likely begin the last week of February. The annual course combines the essential elements of plant physiology with hands-on exercises and field demonstrations. It’s led by a team of experts, including Ted DeJong, longtime plant physiology professor in the UC Davis Department of Plant Sciences and the Agricultural Experiment Station and a UC Cooperative Extension specialist.

“Most courses like this focus on tree-crop management practices, telling you what to do and when to do it,” DeJong said. “I like to start by developing an integrated understanding of how trees grow and function, and then growers understand why they do what they do when they do it. When they understand what causes a plant stress, for example, they make decisions accordingly. And they are better able to diagnose problems.”

Farmers, orchard managers and students would all benefit from the course and the instructors’ approach, said John Warmerdam, a fruit tree grower and packer from Hanford, who attended the 2013 session.

“The instructors are amazing,” Warmerdam said. “It’s not easy to get good pomology information these days. Farm advisors in California are stretched so thin. In this course, you learn from some of the top minds in the industry. They’re a treasure trove of information.”

In addition to DeJong, 2014 instructors include Carlos Crisosto, UC Cooperative Extension specialist and director of the UC Davis Fruit and Nut Research and Information Center; Patrick Brown, professor with the UC Davis Department of Plant Sciences; and Brooke Jacobs, associate specialist with the UC Davis Department of Plant Sciences and the UC Davis Fruit and Nut Research and Information Center.

The first week includes lectures, hands-on exercises and field demonstrations in basic tree biology and orchard management practices. In week two, participants take a four-day field tour of commercial orchards, UC experiments and processing facilities throughout Northern and Central California. Participants receive a certification upon completion.

Lecture topics include:

  • The basics of how trees work
  • Ideal climatic and soil conditions for tree fruit and nut crops
  • Dormancy, chill requirements and rest breaking
  • How trees grow and what determines architecture
  • Understanding cropping, pollination and fruit set
  • How trees use water and nutrients
  • Fruit growth and development
  • Harvest and harvest indices
  • Postharvest quality and technology

Hands-on exercises and field demonstrations include:

  • Bearing habits
  • Measuring fruit quality and fruit tasting
  • Pruning, training and light management
  • Root excavations
  • Measurement of plant water status and irrigation scheduling
  • Measurement of plant nutrient status and fertilization scheduling

The course costs $2,850 for the full two weeks (or $1,850 for the first week only). Scholarships are available for new growers — people growing tree fruit or nut crops for less than three years — and for growers transitioning from one crop, like peaches, to another, like almonds.

For more information and to get on a waiting list, contact registration coordinator Penny Stockdale at (530) 752-7672, pastockdale@ucdavis.edu.

Details are also available at http://fruitsandnuts.ucdavis.edu.

 

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