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NMSU Extension to host forage growers workshop in Valencia County on Jan. 31

What is the latest information on how to make forage acreage produce the best yield?

Back by popular demand, New Mexico State University Cooperative Extension Service specialists will present a forage workshop from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Friday, Jan. 31, at UNM-Valencia Campus.

The event, which is co-hosted by NMSU's Valencia County Extension office and the Small Farm and Ranch Task Force, will build on previous years' success for providing relevant and valuable information to hay and pasture growers in central New Mexico.

"Forage production is the number one crop in the Rio Grande Valley and the state," said Newt McCarty, Valencia County Extension agricultural agent. "The ongoing drought has been tough on our local hay and pasture growers. This workshop is a great opportunity for them to get together and hear the most up-to-date information on ways to potentially improve their operations and continue being successful producers in our community."

This year's conference will address these and other topics to provide information to help growers maximize profits and sustainability on their farms. Specialists from NMSU and NMDA will cover topics such as insect pest management, weed identification and management, optimum fertilization, building soil health, and alternative hay varieties.

"While the workshop will focus on the small- to medium-sized farms in the Middle Rio Grande Valley, there will be useful information for forage producers of all sizes," said Mark Marsalis, NMSU Extension forage specialist. "There will be information for both hay and pasture growers, including cool-season pastures, traditional alfalfa hay operations, and those perhaps looking for alternative hay crops."

The program will begin with an update on USDA programs. Representatives from NRCS, FSA and the Valencia Soil and Water Conservation District will be in attendance to summarize and answer any questions about programs available to producers.

Pest management in forages is always a challenge, and several experts will address such issues. Jamshid Ashigh, NMSU weed specialist, will present weed-control options for pastures, which was a significant problem in 2013.

In addition, Rick Arnold, NMSU professor at Farmington's Agricultural Science Center, will give an overview of broadleaf weed control in alfalfa fields, focusing on both new seedling and established stands.

For those producers facing more perennial and noxious weed problems, Jim Wanstall, NMDA noxious weed program coordinator, will present vegetation management principles that can be utilized for long-term improvement of infested lands.

Weeds are not the only pest that limits forage productivity. Certain insects can be quite problematic, especially in alfalfa. Jane Pierce, NMSU Extension entomologist at the NMSU's Agricultural Science Center at Artesia, will address the most common insects that attack the various forage crops in New Mexico.

Soil health and fertility in forage-based systems are critically important to both profitability and sustainability. Two presentations will address these topics. John Idowu, NMSU Extension agronomist, will present on the value of improving overall soil health by way of a multi-faceted approach of chemical, physical and biological factors and how this can potentially be achieved by using cover crops. In addition, Robert Flynn, NMSU Extension agronomist at the Artesia agricultural science center, will talk about how to optimize soil fertility and fertilizer programs for different forage crops.

Because many of the forages in the region are grazed by various classes of livestock, understanding proper grazing techniques and animal management will be addressed at the workshop. Leonard Lauriault, NMSU forage researcher and superintendent at Tucumcari's Agricultural Science Center, will present information on proper grazing of the cool-season pastures common in central and northern parts of the state.

There has been increased interest in alternative hay crops for producers facing drought and irrigation water shortages or inconsistency. One drought-tolerant forage that has received quite a bit of interest over the last few years, is teff grass. Marsalis will present an overview of the value of this annual forage as an excellent rotational crop in between alfalfa crops and as another option for small-bale horse hay.

The one-day workshop will be at the UNM-Valencia Campus, 280 La Entrada Road, Los Lunas, NM. Registration at the door begins at 7 a.m. Registration fee is $10, which includes coffee, donuts, lunch and door prizes. The event has been approved for five Continuing Education Units for New Mexico Pesticide Applicators.

For more information on the forage growers workshop and a program of events, visit http://forages.nmsu.edu, or contact McCarty at 505-565-3002, or Marsalis at 505-865-7340 or marsalis@nmsu.edu.

Sponsors of the event include New Mexico Farm and Livestock Bureau Valencia chapter, Valley Tractor, Ag New Mexico Farm Credit, New Mexico Tractor Sales in Belen, Donut King and Old Mill Farm and Ranch Supplies.