The Land: Fruit expert joins local extension office.

April 24, 2018

David Jones

The Land: Fruit expert joins local extension office.

#TheLand

By Allison Scarbrough, Editor.

HART — David Jones has recently joined the Michigan State University Extension Office as the West Central Michigan Tree Fruit Extension Educator.

Jones, who has a master’s degree in plant pathology and a bachelor’s degree in horticulture from the University of Wisconsin, offers valuable knowledge for local farmers.

He is the first fruit expert in several years to join the extension office team.

Previous fruit experts for the extension office served one county, but his job covers Oceana, Mason, Muskegon, Newaygo and Lake counties. “I do get out to other counties as needed,” he said. “I’m part of a statewide team.”

Jones makes farm visits and is responsible for collaborative research in the fruit growing industry.

“We are definitely one of the top regions for apples and tart cherries in the state,” Jones said.

A critical part of his job is helping combat pathogens and insects that can destroy the precious fruits.

The first local fruit crop ready for harvest is sweet cherries, which is normally mid- to late June or early July. Next come tart cherries, which are normally harvested the first week of July through the end of July. Peaches are harvested locally in early August through September. Apples appear during about the third or fourth week of August through the end of October. “That’s the longest season because of the number of varieties,” he said.

Nearly all of the local tart cherries are the Montmorency variety, which is why the harvest season is so short, he said.

With this year’s unusually cool spring, Jones said he expects the growing season will begin a few weeks later than normal. A delayed growing season is a much better scenario than the blossoms experiencing a hard frost due to an early spring followed by a return to freezing temperatures.

“It’s harder on vegetable growers,” he said, “but for fruit growers this is fine. Most would take a later spring over a hard frost. The cool weather just delays it.”

“This has actually been a pretty good winter. Snow is good for fruit — it insulates the roots.”

The Wisconsin native will also teach a plant pathology course this fall at West Shore Community College. He has taught adult enrichment classes and has served as a guest speaker for schoolchildren. He demonstrates how to properly prune fruit trees, etc.

“I have always been interested in horticulture,” Jones said. “Both of my parents have a long history in horticulture.”

“Helping growers to the best of my abilities” is his main objective through “managing insects, pests, disease and horticulture issues.”

Jones said he enjoys working in this area, because there are so many multi-generational farms. He appreciates the wisdom of the older farmers and the enthusiasm of the younger growers. “There are very talented farmers in this region.”

In addition to Jones’ expertise in the fruit field, the extension office also has vegetable expert Ben Werling on hand to help vegetable growers.

Jones knows full well the huge impact that farming has on the local economy. “Agriculture is this county’s bread and butter,” he said.

This story is copyrighted © 2018, all rights reserved by Media Group 31, LLC, PO Box 21, Scottville, MI 49454. No portion of this story or images may be reproduced in any way, including print or broadcast, without expressed written consent.

 

 

 

 

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