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NMSU to celebrate 50th anniversary of its Agricultural Science Center at Farmington

FARMINGTON ? For 50 years New Mexico State University has served the Four Corners Region?s agricultural research needs at its Agricultural Science Center at Farmington.


Person looking at grapes on plant
Grapes at New Mexico State University?s Agricultural Science Center at Farmington have weathered a challenging growing season and appear to be producing a bumper crop. Visitors at the Friday, July 29, field day will learn about the impact of no irrigation water during May and June during the field tours. (NMSU photo by Geraint Smith)

The science center will host a field day, Friday, July 29, to celebrate its partnerships that have transformed communities through discovery. Registration begins at 8:30 a.m. with a field tour at 10 a.m. and barbecue lunch at noon.

?This is an appreciation day for everyone,? said Kevin Lombard, superintendent of the science center. ?The research station was established in 1966 to serve the agricultural needs of San Juan County. There were several offers to put the farm in the valley, but, ultimately, the Navajo Nation leased 250 acres of land and access to water.?

Through the direction of a local advisory board, NMSU College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences has conducted a wide variety of research through the years.

This has been a year of change for the center. Three long-time employees retired: superintendent Rick Arnold, irrigation expert Dan Smeal and research assistant Curtis Owens.

?The research they have done over the years has been vital to the agricultural production of the region,? Lombard said.

An unforeseen collapse of a Navajo Agricultural Products Industry water system culvert on May 13 also changed the scope of research this year.

?We wanted to remain in solidary with NAPI so we cut water off to the majority of the test plots,? Lombard said. ?I thought it was a good opportunity to look at how plants react to lack of water.?

The water flow was restored by the middle of June, but the annual crops suffered.

?We did plant some early maturing corn to see how it would do,? Lombard said. ?The perennial crops and native plants did quite well without irrigation.?

The surprising crop was the grape trials.

?We?re going to have a bumper crop of grapes,? he said. ?It will be interesting to see what the quality will be at harvest.?

Beside their farming duties, the staff has been giving the administrative building a facelift.

?We have repainted all of the walls and have put in new flooring since the building was closed while asbestos was removed,? he said. ?We also are getting a new phone system.?

Looking to the future Lombard said there are two areas of research that will be added ? soil health and organic crops.

?We plan on doing research associated with soil health,? Lombard said. ?We will be looking at different tillage systems, cover cropping and crop rotation.?

Organic farming is expanding to larger acreage operations.

?NAPI is starting organic production again and plans to become organic certified,? Lombard said. ?They are requesting more assistance with this transition. We will demonstrate organic practices on a 20-acre pivot irrigation plot that could be scaled up for their operation.?