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New Mexico State University

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Farmers Should Certify Chile Fields Before Disking Them Under

LAS CRUCES -- Before plowing under poor stands of chile, farmers should have their fields certified to be eligible for disaster aid programs if they become available, an agricultural economist said.

State officials plan to seek federal disaster aid because of widespread damage in the Mesilla Valley, Deming area and Pecos Valley, said Bill Gomez with New Mexico State University's Cooperative Extension Service . To be eligible for disaster programs, farmers must fill out a federal Form 547 at the closest Farm Services Agency office before disking under chile and replanting, he said.

A combination of strong winds and unusually cold temperatures have damaged the crop and created insect problems in developing chile this spring.

"In many fields, stands are thin and it's not economically feasible to harvest the crop," Gomez said. "The sand just blasted off the chile plants, cutting them off at the ground level."

Because of the cool spring, farmers are still seeing damage from thrips, insects that normally cause damage early in the season when chile plants are small, said Phil Hibner, Luna County Extension agent.

"Usually by now we've had a couple of 100-degree days, but this year we've only hit 90 a few times," he said.

At a time when chile should be 4 to 12 inches tall and thriving, plants are stunted and dying, said Bud Deerman, a Mesilla Valley grower. "We have a lot of problems here I've never seen, and I've grown chile for 10 to 15 years," he said. "I'm puzzled."

Deerman, who toured fields Wednesday, said he was thinking of plowing under half of his 140 acres of chile. "This is the time to plant a short season crop, if you can," he said. "The only one I can think of this late in the season is silage corn. At best, it's a break-even crop."

Farmers who plow under poor stands of chile could possibly replant with corn if they can obtain contracts for it, Gomez said. Pinto beans could be an alternative crop for Luna County farmers, Hibner said.