Saturday, May 10, 2014
Butte-Padre almonds in full bloom in Kern County, California, 2014. Photo by Marc Suderman with Ultra Gro Plant Food, Madera.

California Tree Crops: Extensive Training Offered

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The University of California Fruit and Nut Research and Information Center (FNRIC) is offering the pomology extension course, Principles of Fruit and Nut Tree Growth, Cropping and Management, for a third time.

The new session will be held in November 2014.

Ted DeJong (Professor, UC Davis) will lead this extensive two-week course with a team of expert instructors including Carlos Crisosto (Extension Specialist), Ken Shackel (Professor, UC Davis), Patrick Brown (Professor, UC Davis), Kevin Day (Farm Advisor, Tulare County), and Brooke Jacobs (Associate Specialist, UC Davis).

The first two courses were attended by tree fruit and nut growers spanning the full range of crops grown in California, from persimmon to almond. Both instructors and students have enjoyed participating in this unique course.

For the instructors, it’s an opportunity to share much of the experience they have developed over long careers in pomology with an engaged and motivated audience.

In turn, the students have a unique opportunity to learn from some of the top pomology researchers in the world without enrolling full time at UC Davis. Students span the full range of ages and experience levels, from recent community college graduates to seasoned growers with over 45 years of experience. An entire family of 2nd and 3rd generation fruit and nut tree growers from the San Joaquin Valley participated in the February 2014 course.

This extension class offers a unique opportunity to learn the fundamentals of tree biology, and how they relate to orchard management, outside a traditional university setting. One third generation grower with a background in agricultural economics remarked that this class was their first opportunity to really understand why things were happening in their orchard. After two weeks of lectures, field exercises, and asking questions he appreciates the ‘plant’ side of managing an orchard.

“I always say that you will go broke faster mismanaging your money than mismanaging your trees. However, if you want to optimize production you have to understand how a tree works.” said Ted DeJong, lead course instructor.  “Many people growing tree fruits and nuts these days have a background in business management, but only a few have a background in pomology and tree biology. This course is for people who have experience in agriculture or business, but lack fundamental knowledge of plant biology. People who have been told, ‘this is how you do things’ without an understanding of why they are doing it.”

“I receive many calls from growers who have heard of our class, asking if it is the right fit for them. Some of the people who enroll hesitate because they haven’t stepped foot in a classroom in over 20 years, or because they are transitioning from a different career track into agriculture,” said Brooke Jacobs (Associate Director at the FNRIC and course instructor). “I encourage them to enroll, our class is full of the same types of people. The one common factor among all our students is a desire to learn about how trees work, and understand why trees do the things they do.”

A few spots available in the November course. Enrollment is limited to 50 students so that everyone will have a chance to ask questions and interact with instructors. Contact the enrollment coordinator, Penny Stockdale, to sign up. Have questions? Contact Brooke Jacobs (530-754-9708, bsjacobs@ucdavis.edu) or visit the center’s website.

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