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New Mexico State University

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Annual Southwest Hay & Forage Conference will tackle drought, water issues Jan. 26-27

RUIDOSO - N.M. Agricultural producers in New Mexico have faced serious challenges this year because of drought and no irrigation water. At the annual Southwest Hay & Forage Conference in Ruidoso, Jan. 26-27, growers will come together to learn new ideas on how to combat dry conditions and limited resources, and how to maintain healthy crops. Other highlights of this year's conference include alfalfa breeding, diseases and other pests, and whether strip-till conservation practices will work in New Mexico.

"This year has been absolutely dreadful for many producers because of the heat, drought and lack of irrigation water that severely hindered not only yields, but overall hay supplies in the state," said Mark Marsalis, New Mexico State University agronomist with the Cooperative Extension Service.

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

With water resource issues at the forefront of people's minds, Mike Sullivan, with the San Juan Agricultural Water Users Association, will give attendees an update on issues concerning the San Juan River. In addition, Calvin Trostle, an agronomist with Texas AgriLife Extension, will provide strategies to deal with many of the common production concerns associated with growing alfalfa in dry regions, particularly water use and management.

Ian Ray, NMSU alfalfa breeder, will discuss the latest research findings of the breeding program that focuses much of its efforts on drought tolerance, including an update on the NuMex Bill Melton cultivar.

Dave Staheli, with Staheli West, will provide information on the dew point simulator that allows farmers to monitor and adjust the moisture in hay as it is being baled, providing greater flexibility in the timing of baling.

Other topics at the conference include water-use efficiency of corn crops, proposed changes to pesticide applicator rules, how dairies are coping with high feed costs and wildlife management and depredation.

"We always hope that producers of both hay and other forages will learn valuable and practical information that can be taken back home with them and utilized in their operations," said Marsalis. "Several experts from the region have come to share their insight on the current production issues facing hay farmers in New Mexico, Texas, and Arizona."

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.

"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 nationally recognized comedian Vic Henley, who will perform following the banquet dinner on Jan. 26, will provide entertainment for this year's conference.

The event will provide both New Mexico and Texas pesticide applicator Continuing Education Units.

The conference starts at 9 a.m. Jan. 26 at the Ruidoso Convention Center at 111 Sierra Blanca Dr. Pre-registration is $55 per person. 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.