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New Mexico State University

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NMSU Offers Medicinal Herb Field Day at Alcalde

ALBUQUERQUE - Herb growers and retailers can learn about production techniques and medicinal qualities of dozens of herbs during a free field day Sept. 16 at Alcalde.

Charles Martin, an agricultural specialist with the Sustainable Agriculture Science Center at Alcalde, examines a row of Evening Primrose at the center's demonstration herb garden. About 60 species of medicinal herbs will be on display during an open field day Sept. 16. (09/09/2004) (NMSU Agricultural Communications Photo by J. Victor Espinoza)

New Mexico State University's Sustainable Agriculture Science Center is conducting the event, which includes tours of research plots and presentations by NMSU scientists and alternative and Oriental medicine practitioners.

"Our demonstration garden features over 60 species of western, Asian and native New Mexican medicinal herbs," said Charles Martin, an NMSU agricultural specialist who directs the herb research. "This is an opportunity for growers and the general public to learn more about production, uses and potential markets for herbs. The garden is in full bloom and it's bursting with color."

During the tour, Martin will discuss effective production techniques for common medicinal herbs such as echinacea, valerian, yarrow, lavender and yerba mansa. He will review appropriate soil conditions for different types of herbs, water requirements and fertilizer needs.

"Some herbs prefer full sunlight, some partial sunlight and others only shade," Martin said. "We'll discuss the best growing conditions for optimum production. We'll also talk about harvesting, because only certain parts of the plants are used for medicinal purposes."

The tour will highlight Chinese medicinal herbs. Martin began researching two dozen Chinese varieties in Spring 2004, such as Chinese vetch, angelica sinensis, Chinese wolfberry, Chinese licorice and the ginseng substitute Dang Shen.

Martin enlisted about 20 volunteer growers in New Mexico, Colorado and Arizona to plant Chinese herbs to compare how they grow in different climates and soil conditions. Full research results will be available in January, but Martin said some of the Chinese herbs have thrived in Alcalde.

"Chinese wolfberry, licorice and vetch are doing very well," Martin said. "We've found that ginseng doesn't grow well here because of high temperatures and low relative humidity. But Dang Shen-–which is known as 'poor man's ginseng'–-is doing very well."

Deborahlise Mota, a doctor of Oriental medicine, will talk about the medicinal qualities of Chinese herbs and other herbs in the demonstration garden. Mota owns Formulations, an herbal apothecary and treatment center in Albuquerque.

Participants will tour a lavender research plot where Martin is conducting trials for six varieties, including Super, Grosso, Munstead, Hidcote, Provence and angustifolia. Martin will also present results from a two-year research project on organic growing methods for three native herbs: oshá, cota and yerba mansa.

During lunch, Edmund Gomez-–executive director of NMSU's Rural Agricultural Improvement and Public Affairs Project-–will talk about growing herbs as a high-value specialty crop.

After lunch, Martin will discuss a new networking project to connect Chinese herb growers with retailers and alternative and Oriental medicine practitioners to develop a domestic market for local producers. Martin will also facilitate an open discussion about forming the first New Mexico Herb Growers Association.

Registration begins at 8 a.m. Tours are from 9 a.m. to noon, followed by lunch. Participants are encouraged to wear sweaters or light jackets in the morning.

For more information, or if you are an individual with a disability in need of an auxiliary aid or service to participate, call Martin at (505) 852-4241.