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NMSU to offer annual onion field day for New Mexico producers

Onions have been cultivated by humans for more than 5,000 years, but after all this time, we continue learning about the pungent plant and developing new varieties. Here in New Mexico, onions are among the most important row crops, contributing some $50 million to the state's economy. More than half of the state's annual harvest comes from Dona Ana County, where New Mexico State University is heavily involved in onion research.

Participants at NMSU's 2010 onion field day listen to a presentation by Chris Cramer, director of NMSU's onion breeding program. The annual event takes place at the Leyendecker Plant Science Center south of Las Cruces. (NMSU photo by Stephanie Sweet)

Growers can reap the benefits of that research at the university's annual onion field day, to be held from 7:30-11 a.m. July 20 at NMSU's 200-acre Leyendecker Plant Science Center south of Las Cruces. Registration will begin at 7:30, with a formal welcome at 8. Snacks and drinks will be provided.

The event is sponsored by NMSU's Extension Plant Sciences and Plant and Environmental Sciences departments and co-hosted by the Dona Ana County Extension Office.

Stephanie Walker, NMSU vegetable specialist and an assistant professor in the Department of Extension Plant Sciences, is the organizer of this year's event.

"Onions are one of the premier vegetable crops grown in the state," Walker said. "Although New Mexican chile gets a great deal of attention, New Mexican onions are also unsurpassed in quality."

"Researchers at New Mexico State University have a long history of working in concert with onion growers," she said. "The onion industry in New Mexico has been strengthened through the release of many new varieties from NMSU's breeding program that are adapted to local growing conditions, fill harvest windows, and provide resistance to bolting and common onion diseases."

Dave Thompson, associate dean of the College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences and director of the Agricultural Experiment Station, will provide the welcoming address for the event.

"While NMSU researchers at Leyendecker are doing work on more than a dozen crops, the annual onion field day is one of the most popular events that we offer for growers," said Tracey Carrillo, Leyendecker superintendent. "We are excited to showcase some of the results the onion research team has produced."

Chris Cramer, professor in the Department of Plant and Environmental Sciences, will give an onion breeding update and an overview of research aimed at managing iris yellow spot virus; Brad Lewis, college assistant professor in the Department of Entomology, Plant Pathology and Weed Science, and Carol Sutherland, extension entomologist in EPS, will talk about insect pests that threaten onions; Mark Uchanski, assistant professor in PES, will discuss his cover crop and water use efficiency study; and Jamshid Ashigh, extension weed specialist in EPS, will talk about the latest approaches to herbicide use.

Some presentations will take place near the science center headquarters, while others will be offered in the researchers' nearby onion test plots.

Dona Ana County Master Gardeners will host an information booth about their program.

The New Mexico Department of Agriculture has approved 1.5 General CEUs for certified pest control applicators who attend the entire program.

The Leyendecker Plant Science Center is eight miles south of the Las Cruces campus between NM Highway 28 and the Rio Grande. From the NMSU campus, travel west on University Avenue to Highway 28. Turn left on Highway 28 and head south to Snow Road. Turn left on Snow Road and proceed approximately 1.3 miles. Turn right on Leyendecker Road and proceed to the main office (follow the signs) to attend the field day.

For more information, contact Stephanie Walker at 575-646-4398 or swalker@nmsu.edu.

To learn more about the Leyendecker Plant Science Center, go to http://leyendeckersc.nmsu.edu/index.html

For more about NMSU's onion breeding program, go to http://onion.nmsu.edu/