#YardFruits: Lesser Known Fruits

This final week of #YardFruits focuses on random fruits in my yard instead of a single fruit. Just some tidbits that don’t fit on a larger scope. Thanks for reading and I hope you learned something along the way.

Mayhaw (Crataegus) is a fruiting tree that grows native in Mississippi. You usually find it near wetland areas. The fruit is red but is not eaten raw. It is made into juice, jam, or jelly. A local company uses it in Kombucha. It has thorns, as it is in the hawthorn family.

Mayhaw

Mayhaw

Pineapple Guava (Feijoa sellowiana) is native to South America. It tolerates hot temperatures, but does better between 80-90 F. The mature fruit tastes of pineapple/guava/strawberry and emits a fragrant odor. It is a slow-growing shrub or tree up to 15 feet tall or so. More information can be found at this link: https://www.crfg.org/pubs/ff/feijoa.html.

Pineapple Guava

Pineapple Guava

False strawberry (Potentilla indica) is a species native to Asia but has become naturalized in many areas of the world. It produces an edible, tasteless, strawberry-like aggregate accessory fruit. I have heard of it being made into jam and jelly, but you’d need to pick millions of them!

False Strawberry

False Strawberry

Pomegranate (Punica granatum) plants don’t do especially well in hot, humid environments, although better variety selection may help. This young plant is producing flowers for the first time and it set 1 fruit. Pomegranates prefer a more Mediterranean climate. Fruit splitting/disease are problems in south Mississippi.

Pomegranate

Pomegranate

Southern dewberry (Rubus trivialis) grows wild in my yard producing small fruit. Since the middle (torus) is removed with the fruit it is considered a blackberry. This plant flowers early in spring, earlier than other blackberries. Growth habit is trailing and it has many prickles along stem.

Southern Dewberry

Southern Dewberry

Fuzzy raspberry (Rubus moluccanus var. trilobus) has origins in the Australasia region.  It grows well in heat but doesn’t fruit much. The fruit produced is crumbly and isn’t especially tasty. But, it could be used more in breeding (IMO) because of its exceptional heat tolerance.

Fuzzy raspberry

Fuzzy raspberry

Poison ivy (Toxicodendron radicans) and Virginia creeper (Parthenocissus quinquefolia) are both weed species, yet they have edible fruit-bearing relatives. Virginia creeper is in the grape family Vitaceae. Poison ivy is in Anacardiaceae which includes mangoes, pistachios, and cashews.

Poison Ivy and Virginia Creeper

Poison Ivy and Virginia Creeper

Bonus! I wish I had Pawpaw (Asimina triloba) in my yard but I don’t (yet). This small tree has the largest native edible fruit in North America. In the Annonaceae family, it is related to tropical fruits like cherimoya, sweetsop, and soursop. An understory tree, it grows very well in shade (but produces more fruit in sun). This photo is from the MSU Horticultural Unit in Beaumont, MS.

Pawpaw

Pawpaw

 

 

#YardFruits: Muscadines

Welcome to week 6 of #YardFruits. Last week I regaled you with information about bunch grapes. This time I will cover a related crop – Muscadines. These are native throughout the southeastern U.S. Some say it is a niche crop. Actually, I say that too.

Muscadines are related to bunch grapes, both in the Vitaceae family. While bunch grapes are in the Euvitis subgenus, muscadines are in Muscadinia subgenus of which there are only 3 species: Vitis rotundifolia, V. popenoei, and V. munsoniana (there is some dispute among taxonomists in all of this).

Sometimes folks call all bronze-skinned muscadines “scuppernongs” (or some variation of that). In fact, ‘Scuppernong’ was the very first muscadine variety. It was found along the Scuppernong river in North Carolina. Muscadines also come in black, purple, red or some gradient thereof.

Muscadine vines grow wild around the perimeter of my yard, although most of them bear no fruit. It has been estimated that 65-75% of all vines in the wild are male and do not produce any fruit at all. So if you find one with fruit, it is somewhat uncommon.

Varieties of muscadines fall into either female vines or self-fertile vines. If you want to grow a female vine, then a self-fertile vine must be planted near it for pollination. Why plant a female vine? Often the fruit are larger and the overall yields can be higher.

I grow a self-fertile variety called Southern Home. It has excellent ornamental qualities from its unique leaf shape and the fruit is very good. Yields are often low, but I’m not concerned with that for my home use. I’ve also heard it makes good wine. Southern Home is an interspecific hybrid with V. vinifera in the background.

Since muscadines are from the southeastern U.S. they have a low chilling requirement for most varieties. Work at the University of Arkansas to breed for more northern adaptation is ongoing but results are still in the future. Muscadines break bud late in the spring (compared to other fruit crops) so they are not often damaged by frost and freezes.

Muscadine vines grow vigorously, so they need more room than bunch grapes. We plant them 15-20 feet apart in a row and 12 feet between rows. They do not need a lot of N fertilizer each year (but some will replenish lost nutrients) and they can benefit from irrigation. They must be pruned annually in the dormant season, usually they are spur pruned.

In Mississippi, muscadines grow very well. They are resistant or highly tolerant of Pierce’s disease and many fungal diseases. They often are grown without sprays of any kind (although they benefit from some pest control). Bees and wasps are a huge nuisance though around harvest time.

The fruit does not grow in large clusters like bunch grapes but just a few large berries. These berries fall off the vine when ripe, although some varieties hold them long enough to harvest. Every year, Mississippi State University Extension hosts a Muscadine Field Day (although probably not in 2020) where attendees can taste many varieties.

Muscadine Fruit

Muscadine Fruit

#YardFruits: Grapes

Welcome to week 5 of the #YardFruits thread where I talk about fruiting plants in my yard. This time I give out some nuggets of info on bunch #grapes (Euvitis) ((but not muscadines (Muscadinia) – that is another topic to be covered later)).

Grapes are an ancient crop dating back thousands of years. Grapes as food and wine are important to the history of man. While we still grow old varieties, there have been substantial improvements made via breeding that allowed more people to grow and enjoy this crop, such as seedless grapes.

I grow an obscure variety called MidSouth. It was released from Mississippi State University in the early 1980s. The vine is resistant to Pierce’s disease (PD), the primary limiting disease for growing grapes in much of the South. MidSouth is an interspecific hybrid, unlike Vitis vinifera grapes such as ‘Chardonnay’, ‘Merlot’, ‘Cabernet Sauvignon’, and many others.

We can only grow varieties resistant to PD. The best is probably ‘Blanc Du Bois’, a University of Florida release. It is vigorous and productive but also gets anthracnose something terrible. I have in my research plots but I don’t like it – too much work. Others include ‘Black Spanish’, ‘Champanel’, ‘Lake Emerald’, among several more.

Growing grapes in your yard is a often a struggle, especially in the South so usually I recommend muscadines instead. Mississippi has only few wineries so demand for fruit is small. However, new releases from Dr. Walker at the University of California-Davis may have utility. I’m testing them and they have not done well for me in south Mississippi, but the are still young.

In south Mississippi, bunch grapes are rarely grown. Our climate is difficult because of rain (we average more than 1 inch per week for the entire year = 60+ inches) and humidity (near the Gulf of Mexico). Fungal diseases are rampant here, as well as PD. There are also insects to deal with. Many can be controlled with spray programs, but willingness to spray is economic and cultural decision.

Grapes have many pests, which is why I use the guide from smallfruits.org (https://smallfruits.org/files/2020/02/2020-Bunch-Grape-Spray-Guide.pdf ). It is best to start early in the growing season to control fungal diseases. Insects should be controlled when identified by scouting (with a few exceptions such as grape phylloxera).

The grapevines I have in my yard are not very old so they have not produced fruit yet. They often have leaf damage from grape flea beetles, as this is a common pest in our area. There are several wild vines around my property too that also attract this, and other pests.

Vines can grow very fast. I’ve trained them in 1 year and had a crop in year 2. Weed control around vines  is critically important to establish vines. They don’t need much N fertilizer, 50 lbs/N/acre/yr is a place to start. Irrigation is beneficial when vines are young and also mature vines carrying a crop load.

Grape vines get to full production by year 5. Yields of 20-40+ lbs per vine not uncommon. I use a single high wire bilateral cordon training system. A wire is at 6 feet off the ground. Vine spacing is 6-8 feet between vines and 10-12 feet between rows. Pruning is an annual activity done during the dormant season. I do spur pruning, but cane pruning is done in some areas on some varieties.

Blanc Du Bois

Blanc Du Bois

MSU Workshop to Teach Grape Pruning Basics

The Mississippi State University Extension Service invites grape growers in the state to a pruning workshop to be held Feb. 3 in Beaumont.

The event will cover the basics of vine anatomy and pruning techniques for bunch grapes and muscadines. After the presentations, in-field demonstrations will show participants correct pruning techniques. Novice and seasoned growers are invited to attend.

The event will be held at the MSU Beaumont Horticultural Unit in Perry County from 10 a.m. to noon. There is no cost to attend, and no preregistration is required. Registration will begin at 9:30 a.m. Participants are encouraged to dress for the weather expected, as part of the workshop will be spent outdoors.

The Beaumont Horticultural Unit is located at 478 Highway 15 in Beaumont. Contact Eric Stafne at 601-403-8939 or eric.stafne@msstate.edu for more information.

What is Your Marketing Plan?

You might be surprised to find out that this is usually my first question when someone says they wish to put in a planting of fruiting crops.  Not soil types, not cultivars, not cultural management, and not diseases.  All of those things are critically important, and believe me, I would I could stick only to those things (because that is my knowledge arena).  However, the world of growing and selling fruit is not an easy one to navigate. Overproduction and excess supply of some fruit make selling it difficult.  Sure, you can be a great grower, but if you are not a good marketer then you might as well forget it.

I don’t know how many times I have talked about marketing to the many, many growers I have dealt with. It is so crucial to understand that growing the fruit is not enough. The thought is, “If you build it, they will come.”

Wrong.

It should be, “If you build it, you better hustle and work to make sure they can find you.” Upfront education and the willingness to develop a marketing plan that is adaptive to change is key, because doing the same thing year after year (also called stagnation) is also a losing proposition.

I’m not a marketer. It is not my area of expertise. But, if you are planning to get into fruit production you need to become an expert or have the help of one in order to survive.

Curious Galls on Muscadine Vine

Recently, a muscadine vine cane was brought into the lab after pruning. It had galls along the cane at nearly every node. Grape cane gallmaker (http://nysipm.cornell.edu/factsheets/grapes/pests/gcgm/gcgm.pdf) may be the culprit, but there are other types of gall making insects around as well that could cause similar injury.  We were not able to find any evidence of larvae, frass, or any other trace of the insect. The injury to the cane is quite extensive, but luckily only a very few canes were harmed.  Thus, it is not worth trying to control this insect, as it would not create economic-scale damage to the vine or to yields. See the photos below.

Galls on cane of a muscadine vine

Galls on cane of a muscadine vine

Closer image of the galls. No evidence of the pest was found (aside from the swelling).

Closer image of the galls. No evidence of the pest was found (aside from the swelling).

Winter is a Great Time for Education

Most of us are quite content to ignore our fruit plantings during the winter. At least I know I am guilty of that. Winter brings about other challenges for me — end of year reporting, conferences to attend, data to analyze, papers to write, etc. I know that everyone has their own stuff to deal with too making it difficult to keep your mind on something that isn’t growing (or at least appears that way). Of course there are a myriad of things that could be done to improve the planting, of which pruning and sanitation are some of the most important. However, I believe the most important thing to do during the time when it is too cold to get outside and you would rather bundle up in a blanket next to a warm fire is to learn. Education is a never-ending process. New things are discovered every year about fruiting crops. New pests, new varieties, new methods of management, etc. The great thing is that you no longer need to drive somewhere during sleet, snow, or icy drizzle to get to a meeting. Extension is starting to embrace online education techniques like webinars and blogs to keep clientele apprised of new discoveries. I would also encourage social media interaction. There are lots of Extension specialists and agents on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, Pinterest, etc.  These are all platforms to interact with us. If you don’t know how, just ask and any of us would be happy to help you learn these new things.  The world is digital and not going back. If we can find common ground with our learning environments we can all be so much better informed. So, what to do during this winter? Try something new and learn, learn, learn.

Growing Bunch Grapes in Mississippi

Last Friday I gave a presentation at the Fall Flower & Garden Fest entitled “Growing Bunch Grapes in Mississippi”. This festival is held every year in Crystal Springs, Mississippi at the Mississippi State University Truck Crops Experiment Station. I usually attend and give a talk on some aspect of fruit crops. This year it was bunch grapes. Of course one cannot cover all aspects of growing grapes in a 30 minute block, but the link below will take you to the presentation (as a PDF file). It gives some of the very basics when considering bunch grapes in our climate. So, take a look and if you have any questions feel free to ask!

Growing Bunch Grapes in Mississippi

Measuring Grapevine Growth

For three seasons I have had a study going on how grapevines respond to producing a crop in the season after they were planted.  In 2013 I planted three cultivars — Blanc du bois, Villard blanc, and Miss blanc.  In that first season I was able to get them trained onto the cordon wire (single wire high curtain system). In season two I had three different treatments: removal of blooms, removal of fruit at veraison, and harvested fruit.  In season three, all vines were harvested (some even going to produce a commercial product, but that is a discussion for a later post) and today I measured trunk calipers.  I have not analyzed the data yet, but I will look at cultivar and treatment effects on vine trunk size.  Below is a photo of the process:

Caliper measurements on a grapevine trunk

Caliper measurements on a grapevine trunk

I have a little more data to collect and then I will be able to start analyzing the data and writing up the results. This study was also done in Oklahoma before I moved to Mississippi, only with different cultivars. It will be interesting to see how the results compare. Growing grapes is expensive and growers need to start recovering expenses quickly. If grapes can be harvested starting one year earlier then the time to recover initial capital outlay will be shortened.  However, we need to make sure that has no lasting impact on vine health, thus this study. Since I couldn’t find any other studies like it in the literature I decided to answer the question myself.  And soon, I will find out the results.  It is exciting!

Agenda for 2015 Muscadine Field Day

Below is the agenda for the 2015 Muscadine Field Day.  It will be held tomorrow morning.  More detailed information, including location, times, etc. was published on this blog here: https://msfruitextension.wordpress.com/2015/07/14/mississippi-muscadine-field-day-2015/

2015 Muscadine Field Day Agenda

2015 Muscadine Field Day Agenda