Jan 29, 2016
Michigan to host IFTA’s annual conference

Precision agriculture takes center stage once again when the International Fruit Tree Association (IFTA) holds its 59th Annual Conference Feb. 6-12 in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

The theme for the conference is “IFTA 2.0 – The Precision Generation.”

Conference organizers said the conference would build on the “Profitable Orchard Management” theme established at the 2015 event held in Nova Scotia.

The diversity of Michigan’s tree fruit industry will be featured throughout the 2016 meeting to be based at the Amway Grand Plaza Hotel.

The pre-conference intensive workshop on Feb. 6 is entitled “Growing the Moneymakers: Fuji, Gala, Honeycrisp.” It will offer a marketing review for the trio of varieties, a rundown of commercial and experimental rootstocks and a focus on optimizing training systems.

Precision cropload management will be explored, along with a review of nutrient needs, maturity concerns and postharvest disorders.

Sunday will be the day for optional pre-conference tours around the Grand Rapids and lakeshore areas, as well as a visit to the Michigan State University Clarksville Research Station.

The main conference opens Monday with a focus on precision orchard training and production systems. Monday evening will see attendees taking part in the IFTA Awards Banquet.

Various aspects of the conference will stress precision orcharding of apples, sweet and tart cherries, peaches and apricots. The Michigan IFTA hosts said their goal is highlight how tree fruit growers “are now developing management skills using new technologies to grow and produce fruit with the help of precision approaches.”

Tuesday’s orchard tours on the nearby Fruit Ridge north of Grand Rapids will include stops at several operations that will display such approaches as Honeycrisp on a tall spindle system, peaches on a V-system, young and old pear plantings and apricots. The NC-140 Honeycrisp trial will be on display and a tour stop will view orchard machinery, including platforms and harvesters.

High density sweet cherry acreage also will be surveyed and a multiple leader apple orchard is on the agenda. V-system plantings of Honeycrisp will be viewed at the final tour stop.

On Wednesday, the conference continues a focus on precision orchard technologies, taking a look at what can be done to maintain a pest free environment and use of new technology.

The optional Feb. 11-12 Post-Conference tour will be held in northwest lower Michigan. Participants will learn about tree fruit production in that unique region of Michigan during this sold out trip.

For more information on IFTA’s annual conference, visit www.ifruittree.org.

Gary Pullano




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