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NMSU Ag Science Center at Los Lunas will introduce superintendent, present latest research at annual field day

LOS LUNAS - New Mexico State University Agricultural Science Center at Los Lunas' staff invites the community to its annual field day, Wednesday, Aug. 14, to meet special guest, NMSU President Garrey Carruthers, and the facility's new superintendent, Mark Marsalis.

Man kneeling beside bale of hay with tractor in background
NMSU Extension forage specialist Mark Marsalis joins New Mexico State University's Agricultural Science Center at Los Lunas staff as station superintendent. His main research focus will be trying to mitigate the impact of drought and limited irrigation on forage producers. (NMSU photo by Jane Moorman)

"We are excited that President Carruthers will be giving our keynote message to open our field day," Marsalis said. "It is a privilege to have him attend the field day."

The annual event is designed to showcase the current research projects conducted at the center as well as provide an opportunity for the public to learn about the most pressing agricultural and resource conservation issues facing the Middle Rio Grande and other regions of New Mexico.

Visitors will meet Marsalis and learn about the new research being conducted by NMSU's College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences and the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Natural Resource Conservation Service Plant Materials Center at the shared 200-acre farm.

Marsalis, NMSU's Extension forage specialist, joined the Los Lunas staff the first of July. He has been with NMSU since 2004, working as an Extension agronomy specialist at the Agricultural Science Center at Clovis.

"I am very excited about relocating to Los Lunas and serving as superintendent," Marsalis said. "The science center is in a unique position to address the needs of a broad array of producers, from large-scale to smaller-acre farmers, as well as urban garden and horticultural clientele."

"One reason I wanted to come to Los Lunas was to return to more hay and pasture-type forage research," he said. "At Clovis the majority of our work was on annual crops. I've wanted to get back into perennial grasses and perennial crops such as alfalfa in order to balance my efforts and the Los Lunas station gives me a great opportunity to do just that."

The drought, and the aspect of returning cycles of low moisture in the Southwest, is directing Marsalis' research.

"My main research focus at Los Lunas will be trying to mitigate the impact of drought and low water supplies on our forage producers, which could be in grazing systems, hay systems or silage systems," he said.

The Los Lunas science center will continue to expand its forage-related research to meet the pressing demands of hay farmers in the Middle Rio Grande Valley and throughout New Mexico. Marsalis' research will look specifically at how farmers can cut back on the amount of water used to raise the crop. Ultimately, Marsalis would like to do research through initiatives such as the Semi-Arid Crop Systems Innovation Program and other programs aimed at drought mitigation in agriculture.

"Drought tolerant varieties of alfalfa are being developed in Las Cruces," he said. "I want to get those varieties into this area and learn how to manage aspects of raising the crop, such as altering irrigation regimes and harvest timing for maximum productivity and return to the grower."

As part of the field day rolling tours, visitors will learn about another useful forage, teff grass, as an alternative and rotational crop to alfalfa, during a presentation from Leonard Lauriault, forage management scientist with NMSU. The NMSU faculty will tell visitors of other research being conducted at the farm, including chile breeding for mechanization by Stephanie Walker, NMSU Extension vegetable specialist, and jujube fruit tree production by Shengrui Yao, NMSU Extension fruit specialist.

Tess Grasswitz, NMSU Extension urban/small farm integrated pest management specialist, will present her latest IPM research. This ongoing research has been a critical component of the science center's efforts to inform the public of the need for insect diversity to preserve beneficial insects in our agricultural systems.

In addition, Brian Shutte, NMSU weed physiologist, will address work he is doing on weed control for vegetable production, and Sam Smallidge, Extension wildlife specialist, will lead a program on small vertebrate control options.

Also located at the farm is the NRCS Plant Materials Center, which serves New Mexico and other Southwestern states by testing diverse ecotypes of plant species for adaption to various conditions and suitability for conservation efforts and commercial production.

Danny Goodson, NRCS agronomist, will discuss using Big Sacaton as a method to control wind erosion, and Greg Fenchel, manager of NRCS Los Lunas Plant Materials Center, will talk about research on the potential of alkali muhly to help restore the bosque.

David Dreesen, NRCS agronomist, will conduct a separate presentation aimed at educating attendees on how to establish native plants in arid environments as well as give a tour of recommended pollinator plants for New Mexico. These two sessions will run concurrently with the rolling tours of other projects.

The event kicks off with registration at 7:30 a.m., followed by opening remarks by Marsalis and Fenchel at 8:15 a.m.

Dave Thompson, associate dean and director of NMSU's Agricultural Experiment Station, and George Chavez, NRCS State Resource Conservationist for New Mexico, will provide updates on the respective institutions.

Riding tours will begin at 9 a.m. Lunch, provided by area sponsors, will be served at noon.

The research farm is located at 1036 Miller St. SW, one mile west from the turnoff at Miller Road and NM 314.