Fruit Production

A Pile of Red Gala Apples
Gala Apples (Photo Taken by Shengrui Yao Courtesy of NMSU)

At SASC Alcalde, we specialize in fruit production with berries and fruit trees. The major issue facing the tree fruit industry in northern and central regions of New Mexico is late frost. Even with the help of wind machines and sprinklers, which most growers cannot afford, tree fruit crops remain unpredictable in many years. To address this problem, research efforts focus on diversifying fruit crop species to include high-value fruits such as blackberries and strawberries and novel alternative crops like jujubes and the use of high tunnels. We also grow and research raspberries, peaches, plums, cherries, sour cherries, apples, pears, and grapes. SASC also focuses on cultivation, organic production, grafting, pests, climate conditions, and disease. Shengrui Yao is Associate Professor and Extension Fruit Specialist. Her research and Extension work focus on tree fruit and small fruit production, conventional and organic production, and orchard floor and soil fertility management.

SASC at Alcalde Publications

How-to Guides and Circulars

Fruit Trees

David Salazar Holding a Peach Toward the Camera
David Salazar (SASC Field & Shop Tech) with Peach (Photo Taken by Geraint Smith)
  • H308_Why Fruit Trees Fail to Bear
    Fruit trees normally begin to bear fruit when they are old enough to flower. Nevertheless, the health of the tree, its environment, its fruiting habits, and the cultural practices you use all influence its ability to produce fruit. Adequate pollination is essential to fruit yield. One unfavorable condition can reduce yield or prevent the tree from bearing any fruit. You can, however, control some of the factors contributing to fruit production.
  • H310_ Fruits and Nuts for New Mexico Orchards
    Fruit and nut trees are a fun and rewarding addition to backyard landscapes throughout New Mexico. The following discussion covers some problems likely to be encountered with various species, areas of adaptation, and a number of recommended varieties.
  • H327_Pruning the Home Orchard
    Fruit trees are pruned to regulate growth, increase yield, and improve fruit size and quality. Pruning is used to shape trees for ease of management and to repair damage. Many home gardeners also do pruning for decorative purposes. How you prune your trees affects the way they grow and how much they fruit.


Several Dry Jujubes on a Table
Dry Jujubes (Photo Taken by Shengrui Yao Courtesy of NMSU)
  • H330_Jujube: Chinese Date in New Mexico
    Jujube (Ziziphus jujuba Mill), also called Chinese date, red date, or Tsao, is native to China. Although it varies with location, jujube usually starts to leaf out in April or May, blooms in June to July, and matures in late August to October. In New Mexico, jujube trees can be found growing in diverse locales around the state.
  • H335_Jujube (Ziziphus jujuba) Grafting
    There are always two parts for grafting: the scion, which is the chosen cultivar, and the rootstock, which is used for the root system. The rootstock is often selected for characteristics such as disease resistance, plant size, precocity, and/or soil or climatic adaptability. Jujubes (Ziziphus jujuba) have a thin bark and many side branches, making it almost impossible to remove a single bud for budding (chip budding with woody tissue inside maybe possible). Other grafting methods, such as bark grafting and whip/tongue grafting, are better choices for jujube propagation.


  • H324_Home Garden Strawberry Production in New Mexico
    Strawberries are many people's favorite fruit and are always popular at local farmers' markets and roadside stands. They are one of the most common small fruits grown in home gardens and are an easy fruit to grow. This document guides folks who want to grow strawberries through the different varieties, pests, soil conditions, and so on.

Technical Papers

Fruit Trees

Close Up of Red Raspberries on Branch
Raspberries (Photo Taken by Geraint Smith)
  • RR782_Peach Cultivar Evaluation in Northern New Mexico
    Peach (Prunus persica) is a challenging crop to grow in New Mexico because of frequent late frosts and occasional winter freezes. With global weather changes, fruit tree flowers/fruitlets are frost killed with greater frequency today than in the past (Yao et al., 2011). Peach is a favorite fruit, and growers are requesting cultivar and pest management information. With this in mind, a peach trial with 20 cultivars was set up at the NMSU Sustainable Agriculture Science Center at Alcalde in 2001. We reported the summary of this 11-year trial.

Additional NMSU Publications

How-to Guides and Circulars

  • H303_Pruning Grapes to the Four-Arm Kniffin System
    The successful grape grower prunes to direct vine growth to the desired trellis system and to optimize yield and quality over many years. The Kniffin pruning system was devised in 1852 to train Concord grapevines (Vitis labrusca). Despite its relatively high labor requirement, the four-arm Kniffin system is sometimes used in northern New Mexico to train interspecific or French hybrid varieties on sites with low to moderate vigor potential.
  • H318_ Commercial Everbearing Red Raspberry Production for New Mexico
    The raspberry belongs to a group of small-fruit crops called brambles. Brambles have perennial root systems and biennial canes. Canes produced during spring and summer (primocanes) will produce fruit on the same canes the following summer (floricanes). The canes will then die back to ground level during winter.

Journal Articles and External Publications

Close Up of Red Tart Cherry on Branch
Tart Cherry (Photo Taken by Shengrui Yao Courtesy of NMSU)
  • Acta Hort, Issue 1001, No. 10, 2013:
    "Control of the Greater Peach Tree Borer (Synanthedon exitiosa) (Lepidoptera: Sesiidae) in Small-Scale Organic Orchards". In conventional orchards, the greater peach tree borer (Synanthedon exitiosa) is controlled by broad-spectrum residual insecticides applied to the trunk of the host tree to kill newly-hatched larvae before they enter the wood. However, the lack of organically-approved insecticides with prolonged residual activity makes this a challenging pest for organic growers to manage. To address this issue, we conducted three years of field trials at two sites in New Mexico using two different approaches: soil and trunk applications of entomophagous nematodes (Steinernema feltiae and Heterorhabditis bacteriophora) and mating disruption with a commercial pheromone product (Isomate�®-PTB Dual).
  • HortScience, Vol. 48, No. 6, p. 672-680, June 2013:
    "Past, Present, and Future of Jujubes- Chinese Dates in the United States". This article summarizes jujube importation and culture history and current jujube cultivars in the United States. Described within are jujube taxonomy, biology, adaptation, fruit nutrition, pests and diseases, propagation, and research conducted in the United States. It also discusses the current issues with jujubes in the United States and possible solutions to them. Jujubes have adapted and grown well in the southern and southwestern United States, and they could become a valuable industry in the United States within 15 to 20 years. Author: Shengrui Yao.
  • Press Release: American Society for Horticultural Science, April 6, 2015:
    "Challenges of Strawberry Production in High-pH Soil at High Elevation in the Southwestern United States". This press release describes the study that took place in Alcalde, NM at SASC concerning strawberries as an alternative fruit crop. "High frequency and intensity of late spring frosts in semiarid climates have made fruit production challenging," explained Shengrui Yao, corresponding author of a study in the February 2015 issue of HortScience. "Growers may only harvest five to six apple crops during a 10-year period, and, as a result, many are forced to abandon their orchards." To lessen the negative impacts of unreliable weather and soil conditions, growers in the region are looking to alternative crops to help them stay in business. Yao and researchers Steve Guldan, Robert Flynn, and Carlos Ochoa studied multiple strawberry varieties, and found some promising options for growers in the U.S. Southwest.
  • HortScience, Vol. 50, No. 2, p.254-258, February 2015:
    "Challenges of Strawberry Production in High-pH Soil at High Elevation in the Southwestern United States" Abstract. In 2011, 16 strawberry cultivars were planted with two planting systems- a black-plastic-covered perennial system (BP) and a matted-row system (MR)- arranged in a split-block design with four replications at the New Mexico State University (NMSU) Sustainable Agriculture Science Center, Alcalde, NM. Cultivars varied greatly in their yield and tolerance to high-pH soil. With appropriate cultivar selection and management, growers can produce strawberries in high-pH soil at high elevation with a short growing season in the Southwest. Authors: Shengrui Yao, Steve Guldan, Robert Flynn, and Carlos Ochoa.
Close Up of a Hand Holding Green and Purple Grapes
Hand with Grapes (Photo Taken by Geraint Smith)
  • HortScience, Vol. 50, No. 6, p. 839-846, June 2015:
    "Jujube (Ziziphus jujuba Mill.) Flowering and Fruiting in the Southwestern United States" Abstract. Fifty-six jujube cultivars were observed for their flowering habits and fruiting characteristics at Alcalde, New Mexico. Jujube cultivars were classified as morning blooming type or afternoon blooming type. Among the 56 cultivars observed, 24 belonged to the morning type and 32 belonged to the afternoon type. Seed development was also affected by weather and pollination conditions. Fruit blooming type, pollen release, self-pollination, self-fruitfulness, self-fertility, and seed development are all critical information for jujube breeders, re-searchers, extension personnel, and growers. Authors: Shengrui Yao, Junxin Huang, and Robert Heyduck.
  • HortTechnology, Vol. 21, No. 6, p. 767-772, December 2011:
    "Winter 2011 Low-temperature Injury to Stone Fruit Flower Buds in New Mexico". Twelve peach (Prunus persica) cultivars, six apricot (Prunus armeniaca) cultivars, two japanese plum (Prunus salicina) cultivars, three European plum (Prunus domestica) cultivars, four sweet cherry (Prunus avium) cultivars, and three tart cherry (Prunus cerasus) cultivars were monitored for winter damage at New Mexico State University's Sustainable Agriculture Science Center in Alcalde, NM (main site), and the Agricultural Science Center in Los Lunas, NM (minor site), in 2011. Author: Shengrui Yao.
  • HortTechnology, Vol. 23, No. 3, p.364-368, June 2013:
    "Unique Fruit Development of Ornamental 'Teapot' Jujube". Jujube or Chinese date (Ziziphus jujuba) has fruit that is developed mainly from ovary plus some nectary disk tissue, and the fruit can appear smooth or bumpy on the surface. The objective of this study was to investigate the unique fruit development of ornamental "Teapot" jujube. With its unique and decorative fruit shape, and acceptable fruit quality, "Teapot" jujube could be used as a backyard tree, both as an ornamental and for its fruit. Author: Shengrui Yao.
  • HortTechnology, Vol. 23, No. 5, p. 699-709, October 2013:
    "Wine Grape Cultivar Performance in the Four Corners Region of New Mexico in 2010-12" Abstract. Commercial wine grape (Vitis sp.) production in northwestern New Mexico and the greater Four Corners region is now supported by four wineries. The challenges of growing grape vines in northwestern New Mexico include cold winter temperatures and killing spring frosts exacerbated by a semiarid climate and elevations exceeding 1700 m. Nineteen non-grafted European wine grape (Vitis vinifera) and interspecific hybrid wine grape cultivars were planted in 2007 and evaluated between 2010 and 2012.

Additional Links

NMSU Jujube Program

How to Graft a Jujube Tree with Dr. Shengrui Yao