Fruit Production

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

At SASC Alcalde, we specialize in fruit production of 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)

  • Guide H 307_Rootstocks for Size Control in Apple Trees
    You may still see some old apple trees 20-30 feet apart in northern New Mexico, but for new plantings nationwide, high-density plantings with small trees are more and more popular. Many advantages have been given for high-density plantings, such as reduced labor costs for pruning, spraying, and picking; improved fruit quality for a small canopy with good light penetration; and earlier yields compared to traditional low-density plantings.
  • Guide H 308_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.
  • Guide H 310_ 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.
  • Guide H 327_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)
  • Guide H 330_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.
  • Guide H 335_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.


  • Guide H 320_Raspberries for the Home Garden
    Raspberries are one of the most delicate and delicious small fruits grown in New Mexico. Although red raspberries prefer cooler areas, everbearing varieties have successfully produced fall crops in warmer areas.
  • Guide H 324_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.
  • Guide H 325_Blackberry Production in New Mexico
    For over 2,000 years, people have grown blackberries (Rubus spp.) for their edible fruit, for medicinal purposes, and as hedges to keep out intruders. Though more popular in New Mexico as a backyard small fruit crop, commercial plantings can yield as much as 6,000 pounds per acre under good management, and high tunnel/hoop house production can double the field yield. A planting can produce fruit for 15 years or more, but optimal production occurs between the third and eighth years.
  • Guide H 326_Minor Small Fruit Crops for New Mexico Gardens
    The majority of small fruit crops- such as grape, raspberry, blackberry, and strawberry- are classified as “berry”-bearing plants. For the purposes of this publication, the term “small fruit crop” has been expanded to include some of the bush cherries. Many areas of the United States offer a great variety of small fruit crops for backyard production. Some, like blueberries, are not adapted to the alkaline soils that characterize most New Mexico gardens. For an uncommon small fruit, New Mexico gardeners can try tayberries, currants, gooseberries, elderberries, bush cherries, and sea buckthorn (sea berry). Improve your chance of success by planting in heavily composted soils in areas with good water quality (low salt levels).

Technical Publications and Variety Trials

Fruit Trees

Close Up of Red Raspberries on Branch
Raspberries (Photo Taken by Geraint Smith)
  • RR 782_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.


  • RR 795_Jujube—An Alternative Crop for New Mexico Agricultural Producers
    New Mexico agriculture is different compared to most other states. Producers across the state often diversify their operations for a variety of reasons. An alternative crop option for New Mexico producers to consider is the jujube. Jujube’s market potential in New Mexico has been displayed through consumer taste test research showing that consumers like several New Mexico jujube cultivars. Five cultivars, Maya, Li, Sugarcane, Lang, and HoneyJar, considered the most appropriate for fresh market sales by researchers, were included in taste tests conducted throughout New Mexico.


Additional NMSU Publications

How-to Guides and Circulars

  • Guide H 303_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.
  • Guide H-309_Grape Varieties for North-central New Mexico
    Grapes (Vitis spp.) are most the widely grown perennial fruit crop in the world. They are grown in home gardens for fruit and landscape purposes or commercially for wine, raisins, or fresh consumption as "table" grapes. Selecting grape varieties that are adapted to prevailing climatic and soil conditions is an important step before planting. In addition to winter hardiness, other considerations when selecting a variety are its fruit characteristics, number of frost-free days required for ripening, disease susceptibility, yield potential, growth habit, and other cultural requirements. This publication describes four types of grapes grown in New Mexico: European, American, American hybrid, and French hybrid.
  • Guide H 317_Apple Disease Control
    Several infectious disease agents (biotic pathogens such as fungi, bacteria, viruses, nematodes, and mycoplasmas) and non-infectious factors (abiotic factors such as temperature, moisture, nutrients, soil conditions, and chemicals) can cause diseases on apple trees. The climate in New Mexico tends to limit the common types of diseases; however, the diseases that do occur can be serious.
  • Guide H 318_ 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.
  • Guide H 331_ Trellis End Post Assembly Designs for Vineyards
    Proper construction and installation of the vineyard trellis are important components in the establishment and success of a vineyard. The trellis is the main support structure of grape vines in the vineyard; it must be sturdy enough to support canopy and wind loads that exert forces on the catch and cordon wires, line posts, and end assemblies. The vineyard trellis, and especially the end post assembly, must be properly constructed to support canopy and wind loads. The mechanics of the end post assembly involve simple physics.
  • Guide H 420_Establishing Fruit and Shade Trees
    Getting off to a good start is essential to growing a healthy, long-lived tree. A stunted tree seldom develops into a desirable one. Weak growth and poor foliage let the sun burn the trunk and branches, making the tree more susceptible to attacks by insects and diseases. Good cultural practices lead to improved success in establishing trees.

Journal Articles and External Publications

Close Up of Red Tart Cherry on Branch
Tart Cherry (Photo Taken by Shengrui Yao)

  • "Challenges of Strawberry Production in High-pH Soil at High Elevation in the Southwestern United States", Press Release: American Society for Horticultural Science, April 6, 2015:
    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.
  • "Control of the Greater Peach Tree Borer (Synanthedon exitiosa) (Lepidoptera: Sesiidae) in Small-Scale Organic Orchards", Acta Hort, Issue 1001, No. 10, 2013:
    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). **Abstract only linked**
  • "Jujube (Ziziphus jujuba Mill.) Flowering and Fruiting in the Southwestern United States", HortScience, Vol. 50, No. 6, p. 839-846, June 2015:
    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.
Close Up of a Hand Holding Green and Purple Grapes
Hand with Grapes (Photo Taken by Geraint Smith)

  • "High Tunnel Apricot Production in Frost-prone Northern New Mexico", HortTechnology, Vol. 29, Issue 4, 2019:
    Late frost is the critical issue challenging fruit production in central and northern New Mexico, especially for apricot production. Fruit growers have to wait until mid-May each year to confirm whether they have a crop. High tunnels have been widely used in vegetable, flower, and fruit production worldwide (Demchak, 2009). They can advance the fruit harvest season 2 to 3 weeks in summer or extend the season 2 to 3 weeks in the fall without heating equipment (Yao and Rosen, 2011; Yao et al., 2018). High tunnels create a protected microclimate that can help manage late frosts in late frost-prone areas. The objective of this study was to test the feasibility of apricot production in high tunnels in northern New Mexico.
  • "Past, Present, and Future of Jujubes- Chinese Dates in the United States", HortScience, Vol. 48, No. 6, p. 672-680, June 2013:
    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.
  • "Unique Fruit Development of Ornamental 'Teapot' Jujube", HortTechnology, Vol. 23, No. 3, p.364-368, June 2013:
    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.

Additional Links

  • Potential Value of Ziziphus Jujuba Mill. as a Dual-Purpose Insectary Plant for Small-Scale Farms (Poster)
    Establishing flowering hedgerows and insectary plants can help support beneficial insects in agricultural landscapes, but the associated costs of land, installation and maintenance can deter some growers. Small-scale farmers in particular have expressed interest in using insectary plants that also produce marketable products that could help offset such costs. Ziziphus jujuba Mill. (jujube or Chinese date) has the potential to meet this need, since its flowers are attractive to a wide diversity of beneficial insects and its fruits can command high prices in niche markets.

YouTube Videos

How to Graft a Jujube Tree with Dr. Shengrui Yao