COLUMBIA, Mo. — Fruit and nut growers from around the nation will converge on central Missouri next month as the Northern Nut Growers Association and North American Fruit Explorers hold their 95th annual meeting.

The four-day event commences Aug. 15 with a reception at the Columbia Ramada Inn.

“This conference is about alternative nuts and fruits, along with some discussion about the well-known ones,” said Michael Gold, MU associate professor of forestry. “It’s not only about pecan and walnut and chestnut; it’s also about paw-paw and persimmon and pine nuts and wild plums, medicinals and mushrooms — all of the nuts, fruits and alternative crops that people can grow.”

The first presenters will be Jules Janick of Purdue University, who will talk about baroque-era pomology, and Chiranjit Parmar, who will discuss horticulture in the Himalayan region of India.

Subsequent speakers from around the United States will address such topics as raspberry breeding in warm climates, Eastern European grapes, native edible woody plants, cultivation of sand hill plums, ginseng, truffles, elderberries and more.

Gold and several other MU specialists will focus on chestnuts, which are grown at the MU Horticulture and Agroforestry Center in New Franklin, Mo. “Chestnut is a major-minor nut,” he said. “Nationwide, there are a few dozen growers, each selling tens of thousands of pounds. It’s not in the market mainstream, like pecan, but we’re working to move it up.”

Other MU presenters include researcher Mark Coggeshall, who uses trellises to breed black walnut trees; horticulturist Chris Starbuck, who will explain how woody floral seedlings perform in his Missouri Gravel Bed System; and doctoral candidate Leonid Sharashkin, who will discuss pine nut production and use in Russia.

Some MU researchers will speak on agroforestry practices, such as the inter-cropping of nut or fruit trees with row crops or grazing cattle in orchard settings, Gold said. “The MU Center for Agroforestry is one of the main hosts, so we’re definitely trying to incorporate an agroforestry dimension.”

“Agroforestry will be new to some of these people,” he said. “It’s still not that well known. The fact you can produce something in addition to fruits or nuts in an orchard configuration through the use of agroforestry practices like alley-cropping or forest farming is a new concept to a lot of people.”

For more information about registration, contact Julie Rhoads at 573-882-3234 or by email at rhoadsj@missouri.edu. For details about the meeting, log onto the Northern Nut Growers Association Web site at http://www.icserv.com/nnga/meetinfo.htm.

Forrest Rose is an Extension and ag information specialist with the University of Missouri.