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NMSU weed expert Rick Arnold retires after 36 years with university

FARMINGTON – For 36 years, Rick Arnold has been the go-to guy regarding weed control in the Four Corners region.

Man kneeling holding green plant.
Rick Arnold, superintendent of New Mexico State University’s Agricultural Science Center at Farmington, has retired after 36 years with the university. He served his entire university career at the Farmington science center. (NMSU photo)

Agricultural producers in the area have relied on the field trials he has conducted at the New Mexico State University Agricultural Science Center at Farmington to help them buy herbicides that are proven to work in the region.

On Oct. 31, Arnold took on a new role – retiree. While he might be retired from NMSU, the highly honored weed specialist says he’ll probably continue to help area producers as a consultant.

“I was born and raised in the Four Corners region and have worked here since 1975, when I returned home from attending NMSU,” said the Central High School Class of 1971 alum.

With a degree in crop science, Arnold began working at Navajo Agricultural Products Industry as an assistant technical service director. In 1979, he moved over to NMSU’s science center, located on NAPI land south of Farmington, where he was a research assistant.

“I started as an entomologist, but quickly realized insects are not really a problem in this climate,” he said. “But weeds are. Whenever you apply water to new, virgin land, you’re going to have weeds. Seeds to undesired plants have lain dormant in the soil for as long as 80 years, until there is enough water applied to the soil for them to germinate.”

While he has worked his entire NMSU career at the Farmington science center, his titles reflect his professional growth from research assistant, instructor and assistant professor to pest management specialist, college professor and, finally, superintendent of the science center.

During his years at the agricultural science center, Arnold’s research interests, besides weed control, have been insect control in crops and the revegetation of disturbed land around oil and gas wells.

“Working with the oil and gas industry was rewarding,” he said. “We developed a mixture of varieties of cold- and warm-season grasses seeds to revegetate the well sites to prevent erosion. The research also included using coal-bed-methane-produced water for establishing the grasses.”

He also worked on a study of desalination technology for treating coal-bed-natural-gas-produced water to provide for rehabilitation of the riparian area and rangeland.

Through the years, Arnold and the other NMSU faculty at the Farmington science center have published the results of their research and field trial.

Arnold is respected by fellow weed experts throughout the western United States. He has held a wide range of offices with the Western Society of Weed Science and the Weed Science Society of America.

He has also received honors from various professional organizations, including being named a Western Society of Weed Sciences Fellow in 2010 and Outstanding Weed Scientist for the Public Sector in 2006, and receiving the Bureau of Land Management’s Leadership Award and the NMSU Staff Appreciation Award in 2004.

Other honors have included his Distinguished Educator Award in 2011 from the Rocky Mountain Agribusiness Association, Outstanding Young Agriculturist in 1980 from the Farmington Chamber of Commerce, Honorary Chapter Member in 1992 from the Kirtland Chapter of Future Farmers of America, and Outstanding Young Farmer in 1980 from the New Mexico Jaycees.