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2002 New Mexico Chile Conference Set for Feb. 5

LAS CRUCES - The unveiling of a new paprika chile variety adapted for mechanical harvesting will be one of the highlights at the 20th annual 2002 New Mexico Chile Conference on Feb. 5 at the Las Cruces Hilton. Sponsored by New Mexico State University's Chile Pepper Institute, the one-day program brings together more than 300 chile growers, processors and researchers from across the nation.


The meeting is the largest chile exhibition in the world, said Paul Bosland, a chile breeder with NMSU's Agricultural Experiment Station. More than 25 supplier and manufacturer booths, special sessions for chile professionals, technical sessions, and networking opportunities make the conference a can't miss event for those in the chile industry, he said.

Bosland said the conference features the latest findings in chile research and presentations from specialists with NMSU's Cooperative Extension Service, as well as other industry leaders. The gathering gives people in the industry a chance to exchange ideas and discuss concerns for the upcoming season, he said.

A shrinking labor supply has fueled a interest among New Mexico's chile growers for improved cleaning equipment for mechanical harvesting. Just a few years ago little of the state's 20,000 acres of chile, which includes paprika, cayenne, jalapeņo, New Mexican and others, were mechanically harvested. That is changing with the assistance of manufacturers and agricultural scientists.

Conference participants can learn more about the new 'NuMex Garnet' paprika variety, which is locally adapted to New Mexico's climate and well-suited to machine picking.

Two keynote presentations highlight the conference's morning session. Frieda Caplan, the founder of Los Alamitos, Calif.-based Frieda's Inc., will give insights on marketing chile. Frieda's, the nation's leading marketer and distributor of specialty produce, is a family-owned and operated business that supplies grocery retailers, wholesalers and food service distributors with more than 500 different products.

Caplan is followed by Mark Bennett, a horticulture professor at The Ohio State University, who will review recent discoveries in chile transplanting and stand establishment. Other highlights include NMSU's Extension agronomist Denise McWilliams' presentation on worker protection standards, as well as updates from NMSU's chile breeding and genetics program, Chile Task Force, Chile Pepper Institute and the New Mexico Chile Commission.

Afternoon breakout sessions offer more in-depth content on pest identification and management; new cultivars; mechanical harvesting and cropping systems; weed identification and management; good agricultural practices; and pathogens in produce. A poster session is the final item on the day's agenda.

Registration begins at 7:30 a.m. and the program starts at 8:30 a.m. Unless participants have preregistered, the cost for the conference is $60. For more information, contact NMSU's Chile Pepper Institute at (505) 646-3028.

A separate welcome reception will be held the evening before the conference. Fiery Foods and Barbecue Business Magazine will host the event at the Hilton from 6 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. The gathering, which costs $10 a person, features a silent auction of chile-related items.