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NMSU's Mora Research Center Field Day Set for May 16

MORA - Consumer survey results about New Mexico-grown Christmas trees will highlight a field day Friday, May 16, at New Mexico State University's Mora Research Center. The annual Christmas tree consumer preference survey analyzes New Mexico residents' attitudes about the price, size, quality and freshness of their holiday trees.

John Harrington, superintendent of New Mexico State University's Mora Research Center, examines one of the experimental Christmas trees that will highlight a field day at the science center on Friday, May 16. The program will include an analysis of the latest consumer preference survey reviewing New Mexico residents' attitudes toward the price, size, quality and freshness of their last Christmas tree purchases. (04/28/2003) (NMSU Agricultural Communications Photo by Norman Martin)

"New Mexico's retail Christmas tree industry is a multimillion dollar operation," said John Harrington, center superintendent. "It's a dynamic industry, influenced by competition from other states, changing demographics and ongoing drought."

The science center, located about 50 miles northeast of Santa Fe, is home to dozens of projects on forestry, reforestation, revegetation, agroforestry and restoration ecology in New Mexico.

LeRoy Daugherty, associate director of NMSU's Agricultural Experiment Station, will open the program with an agricultural research review. Curtis Monger, a soil scientist with NMSU's Agricultural Experiment Station, and Mary Williams, a senior research assistant, will talk about carbon sequestration in piņon-juniper woodlands.

In a cooperative effort with the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Jornada Experimental Range and Los Alamos National Laboratory, NMSU scientists are working to determine how much carbon is stored in New Mexico's arid and semiarid lands.

Presentations will include updates on the center's high elevation forest restoration research and New Mexico's tree farm program. In addition, field day participants will tour the center's nursery and some plantation sites at the center, located on a 118-acre site in Mora. If weather allows, a mechanized timber harvesting tour has been scheduled following the formal program, Harrington said.

The free program, which runs from 9:30 a.m. to 2 p.m., will include a barbecue style lunch.

The Mora Research Center, located in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, is home to one of the state's leading forest genetics program and conservation nurseries. The center includes a small forest, about 49 acres of irrigated tree plantations and several research greenhouses.

Over the past three decades, Mora scientists have researched Christmas tree production, seedling survival rates and land reclamation projects. Mora-based scientists have improved seedling survival rates and cut maturation time for some tree species in half.

By using a variety of native and nonnative experimental trees, shrubs and grasses, Harrington has been attempting to stabilize tons of rocky mine overburden to reduce erosion, cut water infiltration and establish a productive forest in the bare stone.

Since NMSU's nursery research began, survival rates for seedlings have risen from 15 percent in the 1970s to more than 80 percent today, Harrington said. The center's research has established more effective techniques for reproducing and raising trees.

For more information about the field day or if you are an individual with a disability who is in need of an auxiliary aid or service to participate, contact Harrington in advance at (505) 387-2319, Ext. 10 or e-mail the center at moraasc@nmsu.edu.