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New Vegetable Specialist Joins NMSU Extension

LAS CRUCES -Stephanie Walker, an experienced chile and onion breeder, has joined New Mexico State University's extension plant sciences department as a vegetable specialist.

Stephanie Walker, New Mexico State University's extension plant sciences department vegetable specialist. (05/04/2004) (NMSU Agricultural Communications Photo by J. Victor Espinoza)

Based in Las Cruces, Walker will work with the public on vegetable issues ranging from commercial production to public school information programs. "I'll also be continuing my research in mechanical chile harvesting and variety development," she said.

This year Walker plans to make general and technical vegetable presentations across the state and conduct several statewide surveys on drought and disease damage. Her initial focus will be on irrigation technology, mechanization and stand establishment.

"We need to encourage more efficient use of water resources," she said. "Drip irrigation has been proven time and again to reduce disease, optimize fertilizer use and produce higher yields when properly administered."

This summer, Walker will spearhead installation of an experimental drip irrigation trial at NMSU's Leyendecker Plant Science Research Center near Las Cruces.

Prior to joining NMSU's Cooperative Extension Service, Walker worked as a quality control manager at Mountain Pass Canning, a division of Pillsbury Corp., in Anthony, Texas, and as a research specialist at NMSU developing red chile and paprika varieties, along with sweet onions. The Pennsylvania native also directed a series of studies on chile varieties better suited to mechanical harvesting.

"I know firsthand what vegetable processors require from growers, and the challenges that growers face in meeting quality requirements," Walker said.

Walker is a member of the American Society of Horticulture Sciences, New Mexico Crop Production Association and the advisory board for the New Mexico Chile Pepper Task Force. She holds a bachelor's degree in biology and master's degree in horticulture from NMSU. She is now working on her doctorate in agronomy at NMSU.