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NMSU to host chile field day at Los Lunas agricultural science center on Aug. 30

LOS LUNAS ? Raising New Mexico chile peppers is big business in the southern region of the state. In the middle Rio Grande Valley, it?s a labor of love.


Man standing by a machine in a field
New Mexico State University graduate student Chuck Havlik watches the mechanized chile harvester run on one of his research plots. The machine will be demonstrated during the Chile Field Day at NMSU?s Agricultural Science Center at Los Lunas on Tuesday, Aug. 30. Field day activities begin at 9 a.m. (NMSU photo by Jane Moorman)

Commercial growers and gardeners alike strive to raise their favorite varieties ? the ones with just the right flavor.

Middle Rio Grande Valley residents have an opportunity to learn more about raising chile during a chile field day, Tuesday, Aug. 30, at New Mexico State University?s Agricultural Science Center at Los Lunas, 1036 Miller Street SW, Los Lunas.

?New Mexicans love their chile,? said Stephanie Walker, NMSU?s Extension vegetable specialist and chile researcher. ?This field day is a great opportunity to get to know the different chile varieties and what makes each unique, as well as learning about NMSU?s ongoing research efforts to strengthen New Mexico chile production.?

The field day will begin with registration at 8:30 a.m. The three-hour program will begin at 9 a.m. with a welcome from Mark Marsalis, superintendent of the Los Lunas science center.

Dealing with weeds is a big part of raising anything, including chile. Leslie Beck and Brian Schutte, NMSU Extension weed specialists, will talk about identification and management of weeds in chile fields, and herbicide trials exploring new options for growers.

Chile has been a part of New Mexico?s culture more than five century. Charles Havlik, NMSU research assistant at Los Lunas, will discuss New Mexico landrace chiles, and ongoing participatory breeding efforts with individuals and communities to develop and improve these varieties.

The commercial chile industry faces many issues, including having a labor force for harvest. NMSU is conducting research on chile mechanization to help alleviate this issue. Walker and Paul Funk, U.S. Department of Agriculture agricultural engineer, will present an update on this research and conduct a demonstration of the mechanical chile harvester.

The program will conclude with a presentation on chile variety selection by Israel Calsoyas, NMSU vegetable program coordinator, including a chile roasting demonstration.

The chile field day is free of charge and open to the public. The event is sponsored by NMSU?s College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences? Department of Plant and Environmental Sciences, Extension Plant Sciences, Valencia County Cooperative Extension Service and the Leyendecker Plant Science Research Center.

For more information, call Walker at 575-646-4398.