Writer: Kevin Robinson-Avila
LAS CRUCES - Drip irrigation to conserve water, improve nutrient uptake and control pests will be a central focus of the Southwest Vegetable Conference March 15 at the Hilton Las Cruces.
The conference, organized by New Mexico State University, is an expansion of the New Mexico Onion Conference that NMSU holds every two years, said Stephanie Walker, vegetable specialist with NMSU's Cooperative Extension Service.
"Onion growers generally plant other vegetables to diversify income, such as melons, chile, pumpkins and lettuce," Walker said. "We expanded the conference this year to provide information about those crops and to allow farmers who don't grow onions to participate."
Given the similarities in growing conditions and challenges throughout the Southwest, NMSU expects the expanded agenda to attract people from surrounding states, Walker said. The workshops will include speakers from Arizona and California.
Onions will still take center stage, given their importance to local growers. New Mexico supplies more than half the nation's fresh market onions during summer months, thanks to NMSU's breeding program. NMSU has developed about two dozen varieties since 1983, many with staggered maturity dates that allow growers to stretch the season from late May through August, when supplies in other states tend to drop.
New Mexico growers harvested 7,100 acres of onions worth about $44 million in 2004, the last year for which New Mexico Department of Agriculture statistics are available.
The conference will highlight drip irrigation for vegetables. Tim Hartz of the University of California at Davis will discuss irrigation scheduling and nutrient management with drip systems. Jeff Silvertooth and John Palumbo of the University of Arizona will discuss proper use of drip systems with cantaloupes and insect management under drip irrigation, respectively.
Other workshops will cover sweet onion varieties and management techniques to improve quality, methods to control diseases affecting vegetables such as curly top and iris yellow spot virus, ways to prolong the shelf life of lettuce, new NMDA marketing programs, and the potential effects of agri-terrorism in the U.S. A trade show with some 30 companies will showcase drip irrigation systems, fertilizers, seed, tools and machines.
The conference runs from 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. and costs $75. For more information, or if you are an individual with a disability who is in need of an auxiliary aid or service to participate, call Walker at (505) 646-4398 or Mary Curtis at (505) 646-1715.
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