Dr. Gary Gao, Extension Specialist and Associate Professor
Fruit production is very popular in China due to consumers’ demand for a healthier lifestyle. Dr. Gary Gao got to work with a few fruit growers and researchers in two provinces in China from late September to early October, 2016. He shared his expertise on small fruit production with them and also learned a lot about fruit production in northern China.
Dr. Gao’s first stop was Hebei Province. He was invited by the Hebei Agricultural Enterprises Association in China to give technical advice to raspberry and grape growers in several counties in Hebei Province in September 2016. Raspberry production is relatively new to Chinese farmers in Hebei Province. Raspberry cultivars from England, Poland, Russia and the USA were planted there. There are also native raspberries in China. The native raspberries are mainly cultivated as medicinal herbs. Both fruit growers and researchers in Hebei Province had a very limited understanding of raspberry production. Gary was able to share his experience and expertise on trellising, pruning, fertilization, and pest management of raspberries with the growers there.
Table grape production is quite advanced in many parts of Hebei Province. Dr. Gao shared his expertise on soil and tissue testing and mineral nutrition with growers and researchers. Bagging of grape clusters for disease and insect prevention and management is a common practice. Bagging each grape cluster is a very time-consuming process. However, grape growers manage to make it happen with available labor. It is hard to know how much longer this practice will last since labor in China is getting more and more expensive.
Apple production in Shanxi Province encompasses many counties. Many of the apple orchards are on top of the mountains in western and southern counties in Shanxi Province. Dr. Gao visited several apple production counties. It was a good learning experience for him since he does not conduct research on apples in Ohio. Fruit bagging in apple production is also very popular. It is hard for American apple growers to imagine that all of the apples on each tree get bagged. Chinese apple growers have been doing this every year for quite some time. While he was in Shanxi Province, he worked with several fruit professors of Shanxi Agricultural University. He did notice that viral diseases are quite common in apple trees since virus indexing is as well practiced there as it is in the USA.
One of the counties he visited is on the eastern side of Yellow River, which is known to be the muddiest river. Farmers in that region grow apples, pears, Chinese jujubes and small grains on these tall mountains of yellow clay soils with some sandstone rocks.