Writer: D'Lyn Ford
LAS CRUCES -- Even with recent rainfall, New Mexico is experiencing water shortages. Gardeners and farmers, in particular, may be looking for new ways to conserve water for their crops. These individuals can learn more about current irrigation research at a Specialty Crop Field Day held June 28 in Los Lunas.
"We've tested plots of winter squash grown with limited irrigation under a black plastic mulch," said George Dickerson, horticulture specialist with New Mexico State University's Cooperative Extension Service . "We've also incorporated water-holding gel into the soil of some plots and covered others with row cover material to protect against frost."
From similar tests in the past, Extension specialists have determined that combining the black plastic mulch with water-absorbing gel reduces water use 60 to 90 percent. In Los Lunas, the row covers protected the squash plants from hail damage.
"We lost our uncovered plants twice to frost this spring," Dickerson said. "The black plastic controlled almost all weed growth and warmed the soil, resulting in earlier crop production."
Field day participants also will see chile, tomatoes, pumpkins and tree seedlings grown under the black plastic mulch. Other researchers will discuss current projects with genetically engineered corn varieties that resist insects and herbicides.
The field day will begin at 9 a.m. June 28 at NMSU's Agricultural Science Center at Los Lunas. To get to the center, travel 2.9 miles south of Blake's Lota Burger on N.M. Highway 314, turn west on Miller Road and travel 0.9 miles. For more information, contact Dickerson at (505) 275-2576.
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