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NMSU's Southwest Hay & Forage Conference to help producers manage alfalfa crop

RUIDOSO, N.M. - Alfalfa is New Mexico's No. 1 cash crop and the annual Southwest Hay & Forage Conference allows producers to come together to learn more about how to better manage this valuable commodity. Highlights at this year's conference, Jan. 13-14 in Ruidoso, include pest control, resource-use efficiency and maximization of inputs.

"Each year, insects and weed pests cost New Mexico alfalfa and other forage growers millions of dollars," said Mark Marsalis, New Mexico State University agronomist with the Cooperative Extension Service. "Producers are continually requesting more information on how to control the pests that rob them of their profits and that make their operations less efficient."

This year's conference will address these and other issues and will provide information to help growers maximize profits and sustainability on their farms.

"It is important that hay and row crop growers stay apprised of the most current pest problems in their area and the latest herbicide and insect control options that are available to them in order to incorporate best management practices in their operations," Marsalis said.

One of the more unique pest topics to be covered at this year's conference is the "Management and Control of Feral Hogs." This is a growing problem in New Mexico and more and more farmers and ranchers are realizing the damaging effects of feral hogs on their land.

"Feral hogs are currently spreading across the United States at unprecedented rates," said Justin Stevenson, U.S. Department of Agriculture wildlife disease biologist. "New Mexico stands at a crossroads where landowners, producers, agencies and others must decide how to eradicate this invader and not allow it to overcome us."

Pest control topics also include talks on management of nematodes in forages, herbicides labeled for use in various forage crops, new over-the-top grass herbicides for sorghum, and corn rootworm biology and management.

In 2010, growers in southeastern New Mexico experienced a devastating outbreak of cutworms, from which the region is still trying to recover. Woods Houghton, agricultural Extension agent in Eddy County, will give an overview of the conditions that led up to the outbreak and how control measures weren't as effective as hoped.

Other topics include updates from NMSU and Arizona researchers conducting studies involving irrigation termination in alfalfa, alfalfa nutrient requirements and fertilizer applications, as well as improving feed rations with mixtures of cereal and legume crops.

In today's economic climate, it is becoming more difficult for farming operations to remain afloat and maintain family cohesiveness. As a result, a session on financial planning for farmers and their families, along with an update from the Farm Bureau of New Mexico, will round out the program.

The two-day conference will have a large machinery trade show, featuring the latest in farm equipment, as well as booths with various alfalfa and other forage-related products, two sponsored meals, a social hour and entertainment by comedian Damian Mason.

"The conference offers attendees access to a wide variety of the most up-to-date research information and industry technology," said Justin Boswell, executive director of the New Mexico Hay Association. "The past few conferences have been a wonderful success for the New Mexico Hay Association and we look forward to bringing New Mexico farmers another fun and educational event."

The event will provide both New Mexico and Texas pesticide applicator Continuing Education Units. Certified crop adviser CEUs will be offered as well.

The conference starts at 9 a.m. Jan. 13 at the Ruidoso Convention Center at 111 Sierra Blanca Dr. Pre-registration is $55 per person. After Jan. 1, registration costs $75. Attendees can register at the door for $75.

For more information on the Southwest Hay and Forage Conference, visit http://www.nmhay.com, or contact Gina Sterrett at nmhay@yahoo.com or 575-626-5677, or Justin Boswell at 575-840-9908 or juboswel@yahoo.com. For a copy of the registration form, contact Sterrett or visit http://www.nmhay.com. Booth space is still available.

Marsalis can be contacted at 575-985-2292 or marsalis@nmsu.edu.