Writer: Kevin Robinson-Avila
ALCALDE - Growers can learn how to raise organic fruit and select herbs adapted to northern New Mexico during a public field day Aug. 16 at New Mexico State University's Sustainable Agriculture Science Center at Alcalde.
"It's an opportunity to learn about all the research currently underway," said Steve Guldan, center superintendent. "There's something for everybody, whether you're a commercial grower interested in new crops and varieties or a backyard gardener interested in growing fruits and herbs in northern New Mexico."
Visitors can participate in three revolving one-hour tours from 9 a.m. to noon that will highlight medicinal herbs and hoop houses, forages and acequia systems, and organic fruit production.
On the fruit tour, fruit specialist Ron Walser will discuss organic growing methods, cold-hardy grape and berry varieties and use of under-tree microsprinklers and drip irrigation. Santa Fe County agricultural agent Pat Torres will talk about fruit trees such as peaches, cherries, apricots and plums. Participants will see dozens of fruit varieties growing on the center's 2.5-acre research and demonstration plot.
On the medicinal herb tour, agricultural specialist Charles Martin will show scores of organically grown medicinal herbs, including about two dozen Chinese varieties the center is testing. Participants will tour a lavender plot with six varieties that Martin is testing as alternative, drought-tolerant specialty crops for New Mexico growers.
Agricultural specialist Del Jimenez will give visitors a tour of low-cost hoop houses the center is using to extend the growing season. Participants will also learn about plastic mulches that help conserve water and control weeds.
On the forage and acequia tour, Guldan will discuss alfalfa variety trials, including local adaptability of kura clover, birdsfoot trefoil and cicer milkvetch, which add nitrogen to soil and can help growers improve pastures. Alfalfa trials include research on how well varieties will grow if livestock graze plots from fall to spring.
Watershed management specialist Sam Fernald will discuss his research on how water seeping from acequias can protect groundwater and increase river flow. Isaac and Ken Suazo, owners of FastDitch Inc. in Vallecitos, will talk about plastic ditch liners as low-cost alternatives to cement-lined acequias. Turfgrass specialist Bernd Leinauer will discuss drought-resistant and cold-tolerant turfgrass varieties he is testing at Alcalde.
During lunch, LeRoy Daugherty, associate dean and associate director of NMSU's Agricultural Experiment Station, will talk about the impact of research centers on New Mexico agriculture. Afterward, agricultural agent Tony Valdez will discuss noxious weed control. Jimenez will also show how to use beneficial insect mites to control bindweed. Mites will be distributed free to interested participants.
Indoor exhibits will highlight nutrition, food safety, 4-H programs, Cooperative Extension Service efforts to improve agriculture on New Mexico pueblos and online resources for growers.
Registration begins at 8 a.m. A welcome address starts at 8:30 a.m., followed by tours. To get to the center, turn west off Highway 68 at mile marker 7 between Espaņola and Velarde.
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 Guldan at (505) 852-4241.
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