Regional fruit, nut, vegetable conference slated Jan. 14 in Tyler

by Staff reports

Separate East Region AgriLife Conference and Expo to be held simultaneously

TYLER – A Jan. 14 East Texas Fruit, Nut and Vegetable Conference at Cross Brand Cowboy Church in Tyler will offer both professional and amateur gardeners suggestions on cultivating a variety of produce in East Texas.

This produce includes blueberries, fire ants, native fruits and nuts, pecan grafting, peppers and tomatoes, said Greg Grant, the Smith County horticulturist for the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service.

“This event was organized to meet the growing demand for information about fruit, nut and vegetable production for home gardeners and established commercial growers in East Texas,” Grant said. “It’s an opportunity to learn some tips and tricks from specialists and agents on how to be successful, how to avoid common pitfalls and how to learn more as you grow.”

His colleague Kim Benton, Cherokee County’s AgriLife horticulturist, said the conference “has a bit of all the common themes for East Texas gardening: It is a great opportunity to hear from local people with hands-on knowledge, and years of experience with tomatoes, berries and pecans.

“And you can’t forget our local fruits and nuts, and our ever-present ants,” she said, then laughed. “There’s something for everyone.”

Registration begins at 8 a.m. Friday, Jan. 14, with the primary session beginning at 8:30 a.m. at 11915 FM 2015 in Tyler.

Topics and speakers include:

• Growing Tomatoes and Peppers in East Texas, Kim Benton, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service. Kim is the county horticulturist in Cherokee County, the home of the famous “Jacksonville tomato.”

• Growing Berries in East Texas, Dr. David Creech, Professor Emeritus, Stephen F. Austin State University. Dr. Creech is the director of SFA Gardens in Nacogdoches and the leading expert on blueberries in Texas.

• Fire Ant Control, Janet Hurley, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension, Senior Program Specialist. Janet is an entomologist and contributor to the popular Insects in the City website (

• Grafting Pecans, Truman Lamb, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service. Truman is the county agent in agriculture and natural resources for Anderson County and has a lifetime of experience grafting and growing pecans.

• Native Fruits and Nuts, Greg Grant, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service. Greg is the county horticulturist in Smith County and is also a past winner of the Lone Star Land Steward Award for his property in Shelby County.

Program cost is $25 per person and covers cost of lunch; pre-registration is required for a lunch headcount.

No Texas Department of Agriculture CEUs will be awarded for this event; however, CEs for Texas Master Gardeners will be awarded for 5 hours, Grant noted.

For more information on either conference or to pre-register, contact the Smith County Extension office at 903-590-2980. Additional information may be obtained by visiting the Texas A&M AgriLife-Smith County Facebook page.

Meanwhile, an East Region AgriLife Conference and Expo will be held the same time at Cross Brand Cowboy Church, attended by professionals seeking Texas Department of Agriculture CEUs. The cost is $10, and an RSVP is required by Jan. 7 to the AgriLife Extension office of Smith County at 903-590-2980.

The conference is for professionals in lawn care, city parks departments, athletic field maintenance, pest control services and agricultural producers seeking continuing education credits.

Five Texas Department of Agriculture CEUs are available: two general, two integrated pest management and one laws and regulations. Five Structural Pest Control Service CEUs are available: one pest, two general, one lawn and ornamental, and one weed. There is one additional termite CEU for those who need to stay in compliance with TDA.

The CEU education session, Termite Control, for structural applicators begins at 8 a.m. The TDA applicators CEU education session, Ants in Turf and Pastures, begins at 9:15 a.m. Registration for everyone begins at 7:15 a.m.

Program topics and speaker will be:

Termite Control – Janet Hurley, AgriLife Extension integrated pest management program specialist, Dallas.

Ants in Turf and Pastures – Hurley.

Pesticide Laws and Regulations Update – Mark Matocha, Ph.D., AgriLife Extension agricultural and environmental safety specialist, Bryan-College Station.

Pesticide Safety – Matocha.

Disease in Turf and Bermuda Grass – Chrissie Segars, Ph.D., AgriLife Extension turfgrass specialist, Dallas.

Weed Identification and Control using IPM Strategies – Segars.

“This is a great event for those with a license or even those who just want to learn more to attend,” Hurley said. “This training helps those who manage parks, pastures, landscapes, indoor structures and more learn what is trending and what needs improving to manage insects, diseases and weed pests.”

This event is organized by the AgriLife Extension agents of Anderson, Cherokee, Gregg, Henderson, Panola, Rains, Rusk, Smith, Upshur, Van Zandt and Wood counties.