A meeting aimed at Arkansas’ commercial fruit and nut tree growers will be held on Feb. 16 in Conway, Ark. Among topics on the statewide Tree and Small Fruit Workshop agenda: marketing, pest control and sustainability.

The registration deadline is Feb. 8 and the workshop will run from 8 a.m. until 4:30 p.m. at the Natural Resources Center in Conway, 110 S. Amity Road.

A fee of $25 will be charged to cover food and many educational materials. Checks should be made payable to Faulkner County Extension Service and mailed to 110 South Amity Road, Suite 200, Conway, AR 72032.

What was the impetus for such a meeting?

“We go out to the different nurseries, orchards and you-picks in Faulkner County — we have large and small producers — to make sure we’re providing the best service possible from Extension,” says Kami Marsh, Faulkner County Extension agent. “When I’m out visiting, I’ll say, ‘if there’s anything I can do for you, please let me know.’

“One afternoon, a producer said, ‘I’d really like to be able to attend a meeting where someone tells us what products have been discontinued in the last year. These are the products being recommended as replacements.’ That expanded to new varieties and research data that are available.”

That pushed Marsh to set up such a meeting.

“Row-crop growers have regular meetings where that sort of information is provided. That isn’t the case for fruit and vegetable producers.

“We started calling in different specialists for this new meeting. Hopefully, this will become an annual meeting and we’ll be able to tap into some of the great research in the Mid-South.”

This first meeting will be on fruit. Next year, “we’re planning to expand it to fruits and vegetables.”

What was the fruit season like in the wet 2009?

“It wasn’t a great year — very hit-and-miss,” says Marsh. “Some fruit producers had an okay year and others had to fight for the yields they got. With all the rains, spray schedules and integrated pest management programs were very hard to keep up with.”

Highlights of the upcoming meeting?

“We have nearly every (fruit-focused) specialist from the University of Arkansas coming. Among other things, growers will be advised of what is going on in the industry, what help the university offers to producers and sustainability. New fungicides, new insecticides on the market will also be discussed.

“Charles Graham will also be coming from the LSU AgCenter to speak on peach tree replanting. That’s a common topic among our producers. Do you need to replant using the same rows? Rotate rows?

“A nationwide effort that Arkansas has just joined in on is the MarketMaker program. Growers will be able to learn all about how that is a new avenue for sales. MarketMaker is a free service and another way for producers to get their names out to the public and advertise their products.”

For more information, contact Marsh at (501) 329-8344 or kmarsh@uaex.edu.

e-mail: dbennett@farmpress.com