Apricots are the first fruit species to bloom each spring in northern New Mexico, with blooming dates ranging from early to late March—or as late as 10 Apr. in 2010—depending on the cultivar and weather conditions each year. Apricot is well known for its erratic fruit set and yield fluctuation from year to year, even in some major apricot-producing areas (Bassi et al., 1995; Gunes, 2006; Julian et al., 2007). Among 24 apricot trees representing six cultivars at Alcalde, NM, flower buds/fruitlets were killed with repeated late frosts, and not a single fruit was harvested from 2001 through 2014.
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. To help those frustrated fruit growers, we tested alternative tree fruit like jujube (Ziziphus jujuba), berry species such as strawberry (Fragaria ×ananassa), and blackberry (Rubus sp.) and alternative production methods such as high tunnel fruit production (Huang et al., 2017; Yao et al., 2015a, 2015b, 2018).
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.
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