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Guest speaker at NMSU to give public talks on alternative to chemical fumigation

LAS CRUCES - A professor of horticulture from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign has been invited to give public talks about using biofumigation on crops as an alternative to chemical fumigants as part of a lecture series at New Mexico State University Oct. 21-23.



John Masiunas, professor of horticulture from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, has been invited to give public talks about using biofumigation on crops as an alternative to chemical fumigants as part of a lecture series at New Mexico State University Oct. 21-23. Masiunas will speak to the public and NMSU faculty and students as part of the Department of Plant and Environmental Sciences' "Dr. Lowenstein Lecture Series." Photo courtesy of Mark Uchanski)

John Masiunas will speak to the public and NMSU faculty and students as part of the Department of Plant and Environmental Sciences' "Dr. Lowenstein Lecture Series."

"Biofumigation is a natural alternative to chemical fumigants," said Mark Uchanski, an assistant professor in the Department of Plant and Environmental Sciences. "It is much more dangerous to work with chemical materials and more expensive. This is just another tool in the toolbox for growers to incorporate into their growing systems that is safer and cheaper, and can have an impact on the control of pathogens."

The concept behind biofumigation is to grow a mustard crop in the fall before the primary crop is planted, then till the mustard while it is still green. The mustard releases a compound into the soil that has a detrimental effect on soil pathogens and soil pests. Using this method, Uchanski said, will result in a better primary crop yield and lower the incidence of diseases.

Chemical fumigants are much stronger and more concentrated than the alternative method. If growers are exposed to the chemicals, they could become ill. If the chemical fumigant is not used at the appropriate time, or if it is left over in the soil when the primary crop is planted, it could damage the plants.

Biofumigation has been successful in other regions of the United States, but is still new to the Southwest. Masiunas will talk about its potential use in the Southwest with conventional and organic farming.

Uchanski said the goal of these lectures, which are geared to complement NMSU's Year of Sustainability, is to make growers aware of available alternatives that will help them grow healthier and more productive crops.

The first lecture is Oct. 22 at 10:40 a.m. in Knox Hall, Room 142 at the Las Cruces campus. Masiunas will speak to students in Uchanski's vegetable production course about general weed management and biofumigation.

On Oct. 23 at 10 a.m., Masiunas will speak to the public at the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Cotton Ginning Research Lab in the third-floor conference room. In this talk, which is primarily geared toward growers, Masiunas will discuss the use of biofumigation with chile crops and its potential in the desert Southwest. He will also talk about weed management, soil pathogens and fungi, and other vegetable diseases. The lab is located at 300 E. College Ave.

Also on Oct. 23, Masiunas will talk to faculty and graduate students about the application of brassicas and biofumigation in arid regions.

Masiunas will be available to talk to the public or faculty and staff on Oct. 21, with prior appointment.

All of the lectures are free and open to the public.

Anyone with questions and those who wish to set up a time to speak to Masiunas on Oct. 21 should call Uchanski at (575) 646-1914.