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Pecans, fruit trees among topics at NMSU Agricultural Science Center in Los Lunas field day

LOS LUNAS, N.M. - Growing pecans and fruit in the Middle Rio Grande Valley will be topics presented during the annual field day at the New Mexico State University Agricultural Science Center and U.S. Department of Agriculture Natural Resource Conservation Service Plant Material Center in Los Lunas.



Ron Walser, NMSU fruit specialist, discusses raising berries during last year's field day at NMSU's Agricultural Science Center in Los Lunas. During this year's field day Wednesday, July 28, he will give two 90-minute talks about growing fruit in New Mexico. (NMSU Photo by Geraint Smith)

The public is invited to tour the farm and learn about the research being conducted at the 200-acre facility during the field day on Wednesday, July 28. Registration will begin at 8 a.m. Dennis Alexander, NRCS state conservationist, will be the keynote speaker during the free lunch at noon.

While variety trials on various fruit and berries have been conducted at the agricultural science center for several years, pecans are relatively new.

"Pecans have been a profitable enterprise in the western United States, especially with the increase in overseas markets in China and Asia in the last five years," said Richard Heerema, NMSU Extension pecan specialist.

"One thing that is happening is that growers outside of traditional growing areas like the Mesilla Valley in New Mexico are showing interest in starting orchards in areas where conditions are very different."

Because of differences in environment and soil conditions, growers will have to have different tree varieties and different cultural practices to deal with the specific issues found in their area.

"The growers in the Middle Rio Grande Valley are dealing with colder temperatures than in southern New Mexico. So varieties that do well down south may not do well there," he said.

To help find solutions to address these various issues in the Middle Rio Grande Valley, NMSU's College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Science has planted two one-acre pecan orchards at the Los Lunas experimental farm.

"Hopefully we can conduct some research projects there, as well as demonstrate good practices for growing pecans in that area," Heerema said.

During the field day, Heerema will discuss raising pecans in New Mexico and talk about the existing pecan trees that have been growing at the Los Lunas farm for many years. "Some of the existing trees have produced year after year, which demonstrates that some varieties can do well in the Middle Rio Grande Valley," he said.

Two special 90-minute sessions on growing fruit in New Mexico will be held by Ron Walser, NMSU urban small farm and fruit specialist. Walser has worked in both the Middle Rio Grande Valley and northern New Mexico to help determine which fruit tree varieties will thrive in the climate and environment of those areas. He has a wealth of knowledge that he gladly shares with growers. This will be Walser's last presentation as an NMSU Cooperative Extension Service specialist, as he will be retiring on Aug. 1.

During a shuttle tour, field day visitors will learn about the various crops being raised on the farm. Stops along the tour will include grape production in New Mexico with Bernhard Maier, NMSU viticulture specialist; integrated pest management techniques with Tess Grasswitz, NMSU urban small farm IPM specialist; riparian restoration with David Dreesen, NRCS agronomist and horticulturist; giant sacaton as an alternative fuel with Danny Goodson, NRCS agronomist; and growing alkali sacaton with Gregory Fenchel, NRCS rangeland and natural resources specialist. Jim Wanstall, New Mexico Department of Agriculture weed specialist, will answer the question "What's the big deal about noxious weeds in New Mexico?"