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Updates on organic fruit, herbs, acequia research on tap at science center field day

ALCALDE - Growers can learn about acequia hydrology research, how to raise organic fruit and select herbs adapted to northern New Mexico during a public field day Aug. 16 at New Mexico State University's Sustainable Agriculture Science Center at Alcalde.

Fruit specialist Ron Walser examines a Gala apple at the organic fruit orchard at New Mexico State University's Sustainable Agriculture Science Center at Alcalde. Visitors can participate in a guided tour of the orchard during a public field day Aug. 16. (NMSU Agricultural photo by J. Victor Espinoza)

"It's an opportunity to learn about all the research currently under way," said Steve Guldan, center superintendent. "There's something for everybody, whether you're a commercial grower interested in new crops and varieties or a backyard gardener interested in growing fruits and herbs in northern New Mexico. We also will highlight important acequia hydrology research, as well as evaluation of turfgrass varieties for the area and forage research from recent years."

Visitors can participate in three revolving one-hour tours from 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. that will highlight medicinal herbs and hoop houses, forages and acequia systems, and organic fruit production.

On the fruit tour, fruit specialist Ron Walser will discuss organic growing methods, cold-hardy grape and berry varieties and use of under-tree microsprinklers and drip irrigation. Participants will see dozens of fruit varieties, such as peaches, cherries, apricots and plums, growing on the center's 2.5-acre research and demonstration plot.

On the medicinal herb tour, agricultural specialist Charles Martin will show scores of medicinal herbs, including about two dozen Chinese varieties the center is testing. Participants will tour a lavender plot with six varieties that Martin is testing as alternative, drought-tolerant specialty crops for New Mexico growers.

Agricultural specialist Del Jimenez will give visitors a tour of low-cost hoop houses the center is using to extend the growing season. Participants will also learn about plastic mulches that help conserve water and control weeds.

On the forage and acequia tour, Leonard Lauriault, forage specialist from the Tucumcari Agricultural Science Center, will discuss alfalfa variety trials, including local adaptability of kura clover, birdsfoot trefoil and cicer milkvetch, which add nitrogen to soil and can help growers improve pastures. Alfalfa trials include research on how well varieties will grow if livestock graze plots from fall to spring.

Watershed management specialist Sam Fernald will discuss his research on how water seeping from acequias and flood-irrigated fields can protect groundwater and increase river flow. Pat Brockwell will discuss drought-resistant and cold-tolerant turfgrass varieties that are being tested at Alcalde.

After lunch, agricultural agent Tony Valdez will discuss noxious weed control. Among indoor exhibits will be Cooperative Extension Service efforts to improve agriculture on New Mexico pueblos.

Registration begins at 8 a.m. A welcome address starts at 8:30 a.m., followed by tours. To get to the center, turn west off Highway 68 at mile marker 7 between Espaņola and Velarde.

For more information, or if you are an individual with a disability who is in need of an auxiliary aid or service to participate, call Guldan at (505) 852-4241.