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New Agronomist Joins NMSU Science Center at Clovis

LAS CRUCES - Mark Marsalis has been named the new agronomy specialist at New Mexico State University's Agricultural Science Center at Clovis.

He will focus his attention on the region's burgeoning dairy industry. Much of his research will center on corn, sorghum and other forage crops such as wheat, rye and oats.

"Obviously, it's a growth area," Marsalis said. "We'll certainly be trying to accommodate the needs of those dairies in any way we can."

Founded in 1949, the 164-acre Clovis science center is located 15 miles north of Clovis on State Road 288.

"Eastern New Mexico has the largest concentration of cropland in the state," said Rex Kirksey, superintendent of NMSU's science centers at Tucumcari and Clovis. "We are excited to have an Cooperative Extension Service agronomist back in the Clovis area to help producers with their production issues."

Former Extension agronomist and Clovis superintendent Darrell Baker retired from NMSU in 2003.

Marsalis will address pressing water-related challenges to crop production and agronomic sustainability. "Water quality and quantity are huge issues in that part of New Mexico," he said. "The general consensus is that producers there are running out of water, which means we should be looking more closely at drought- and saline-tolerant crops. There also may be more opportunity to use wastewater on crops in the region."

A significant portion of Marsalis' time will be spent in providing information for area producers. At the same time, he will elicit farmers' interests. "We are going to be working on building one-on-one relationships," he said.

Variety trials will remain an important function of the Clovis science center. Marsalis already has a winter wheat, rye and oats variety trial planned. "New varieties are always being released," he said. "I think we're all interested in seeing how they perform under our growing conditions."

Prior to joining NMSU, Marsalis served as a forester with Wickersham Forestry Services in Mississippi. He is a member of the Crop Science Society of America.

Marsalis, a native of Madison, Miss., earned a bachelor's degree in biological sciences from Mississippi State University and a master's degree in plant and soil science from the University of Tennessee-Knoxville. He received a doctorate in agronomy from Texas Tech University.