COVID-19 Forces Cancelation Of Parma Fruit Field Day

On Thursday, the University of Idaho announced the cancelation of the annual Pomology and Viticulture Program Fruit Field Day. The cancelation was announced because of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, making it “too risky to hold large gatherings” according to public health officials say. While the Parma events will not take place next month, school officials said research updates will still be shared.

The event typically draws hundreds of people in early September to the Parma Research and Extension Center’s Pomology and Viticulture Research Orchards and Vineyards. The fruit typically given to visitors during past fruit field days will go to food banks this year, including an estimated two tons of apples.

Instead, U of I Pomology Professor Essie Fallahi shifted his focus to spreading the word about research at the orchard to small groups that will in turn share the information with broader groups. This year’s news from the orchard and vineyard includes improvements in table grape production and an almond harvest that is good, or at least mixed. A spring cold snap hurt almond yields but gave Fallahi the opportunity to see which varieties can best withstand the cold. Some trees still bore promising yields; others did not.

Photo: University of Idaho

Fallahi said he is excited about a new “pedestrian orchard” concept for apples and cherries now in its second year of testing. The orchard trees are pruned to 6 feet tall, eliminating the need for ladders. The cherry trees suffered from the early cold snap, but the apples are starting to bear high-quality fruit. The shorter trees could help apple growers financially, Fallahi said. “Ladders require 29% of the labor in an orchard, so eliminating the need for them could mean reduced costs for growers,” he said.

In his 31st year at the Parma center, Fallahi said he misses the opportunity to welcome back people who have enjoyed the annual event he’s held for at least the past 25 years.

“We had to find a way to tell people about what we are doing through grower groups, schoolteachers and media,” Fallahi said. “We wish we could enjoy another field day this year, but we are trying to find the best way to educate people about our work.”

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