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New berry crop on display during field day at NMSU Agricultural Science Center in Los Lunas

LOS LUNAS - Visitors to the annual field day Wednesday, Aug. 12, at the New Mexico State University Agricultural Science Center in Los Lunas, N.M, will view a relatively unknown shrub that has great potential as an ornamental plant for New Mexico as well as a berry-bearing one that is known for its high antioxidant and vitamin-packed juice.

The sea berry, a fruit-bearing plant, is being studied at the Los Lunas Agricultural Science Center. The oil from the berries has high antioxidant qualities and has been used in European and Asian medicinal medicines for centuries. (NMSU photo by Jane Moorman)

The variety trial demonstration of sea berry is now bearing fruit. The orange berries cover the plants main limbs to give the silver leafed bush a splash of color.

"This is the first time we've studied this plant for use in New Mexico," said Ron Walser, NMSU Extension fruit specialist stationed at the Los Lunas experimental farm. "This plant is grown extensively in Europe and Russia where the people blend the slightly tart berries with other juices for a very desirable flavor."

Medicinal uses of sea-berry oil, also called sea buckthorn, are well documented in Asia and Europe. Clinical tests on its medicinal uses were first initiated in Russia during the 1950s. The most important pharmacological functions attributed to sea-berry oil are anti-inflammatory, anti-microbial, analgesic and regenerative. Based on many centuries of traditional use, and on modern scientific research and clinical studies in Europe and China, sea-berry oil has been proven to be an amazingly effective natural remedy for all health problems related to damaged mucous membranes of the gastrointestinal tract.

The shrub that grows as tall as 10 feet, is drought tolerant and has no pest issues.

"For our climate, the sea berry is looking really great both as an ornamental hedge and a fruit bearing plant," he said.

During the field day, visitors may participate in a walking tour with Walser of the demonstration vegetable, fruit and berry orchard. Walking tours will be conducted at 9 a.m., 10 a.m. and 11 a.m. along with the traditional wagon ride throughout the experimental farm where visitors learn about the research and work being done at the science center.

Included in the tour and demonstrations are production of wine grapes by Bernhard Maier, NMSU viticulture specialist; insect control trial with Tess Grasswitz, NMSU urban small farm integrated pest-management specialist; and Master Gardener's plant clinic with Curtis Smith, NMSU horticulture specialist.

The agricultural science center is also home of the USDA Natural Resource Conservation Science plant materials center. Presenting their work on native plants will be David Dreesen, NRCS agronomist/horticulturalist; herbicide trial by Danny Goodson, NRCS agronomist; and plant material restoration by Gregory Fenchel, NRCS rangeland and natural resources.

The field day will begin at 8 a.m. at the farm located at 1036 Miller St. SW south of Los Lunas. The event will include lunch and drawings for door prizes. For more information, call (505) 865-4684.