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Wanda Heuser Gale of International Plant Management polishes and displays apples at the kickoff of the International Fruit Tree Conference on Saturday, Feb. 6, 2016, in Grand Rapids, Michigan. A total of 275 people attended the first event, a pre-conference intensive workshop about growing Fuji, Gala and Honeycrisp apples. The conference proper, which begins Monday, has 394 pre-registered attendees. <b>(Ross Courtney/Good Fruit Grower)</b>

Wanda Heuser Gale of International Plant Management polishes and displays apples at the kickoff of the International Fruit Tree Conference on Saturday, Feb. 6, 2016, in Grand Rapids, Michigan. A total of 275 people attended the first event, a pre-conference intensive workshop about growing Fuji, Gala and Honeycrisp apples. The conference proper, which begins Monday, has 394 pre-registered attendees. (Ross Courtney/Good Fruit Grower)

GRAND RAPIDS, Michigan — Tree fruit growers from all over the world have converged on Grand here for the International Fruit Tree Conference.

IFTA conference logoA total of 291 people attended the first activity Saturday, a day-long pre-conference intensive workshop called “Growing the Moneymakers: Fuji, Gala and Honeycrisp.”

Growers, nursery managers and marketers stressed the importance of the three varieties in the U.S. apple industry’s portfolio, urging growers of traditional varieties such as Red Delicious to switch to those that fetch higher returns.

“Consumers will pay more for something they want,” said R.J. Simons, a sales representative for Belle Harvest, a packer and sales office in Belding, Michigan. “Just ask Starbucks.”

Other presentations focused on characteristics of different strains of the three varieties, rootstock trials, training systems and crop management.

The conference proper, for which 404 people preregistered, runs Monday through Wednesday, though auxiliary activities that last through Friday include several tours of western Michigan growing areas and research stations.