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New Mexico State University

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For NMSU, "land-grant" includes lots of land

Date: 11/01/2012

Northbound travelers heading up to Las Cruces on Interstate 10 get their first glimpse of New Mexico State University as I-25 splits off and I-10 veers westward. That initial view includes desert landscape surrounding some greenhouses and the Arrowhead Park complex. These days it also includes lots of highway construction equipment as the interchange undergoes a major rebuilding process.

A man riding a horse herds cattle on NMSU's NMSU's 60,800-acre Chihuahuan Desert Rangeland Research Center. The Dona Ana Mountains are seen in the distan
Mitch Stephenson, a Ph.D. student research assistant in Animal and Range Sciences, herds cattle involved in a targeted grazing study at NMSU's 60,800-acre Chihuahuan Desert Rangeland Research Center north of Las Cruces. From this vantage point, the ranch extends eastward across Interstate 25 to include parts of the Dona Ana Mountains in the middle distance. In the opposite direction, it extends to the Rio Grande River. The CDRRC, one of the university's 12 research-oriented agricultural science centers, is the largest parcel among NMSU landholdings totaling 85,287 acres - more than 133 square miles. (NMSU photo by Jay A. Rodman)

Heading north on I-25 one sees the football stadium and the Pan American Center on the left. From I-10 there are blocks of family housing units, Dona Ana Community College buildings and the USDA cotton ginning facility on the right.

All of the land between the two interstates up to University Ave. - 900 acres - is NMSU campus land. Although 900 acres is a respectable size for a university campus, it's actually only slightly more than one percent of the land that NMSU owns around the state.

According to Fred Ayers, director of real estate in the NMSU General Counsel Office, NMSU owns a total of 85,287 acres in New Mexico.

In terms of the NMSU system, property categorized as "campus" lands actually total 1,677 acres. The four Dona Ana Community College sites away from the NMSU campus occupy 104 acres. And the three other community colleges, NMSU-Alamogordo, NMSU-Carlsbad and NMSU-Grants, have 511, 122 and 40 acres, respectively.

NMSU also owns 2,500 acres east of I-25, including the NMSU Golf Course, the President's Residence, land on the west slope of "A" Mountain and the site of the New Mexico Farm and Ranch Heritage Museum. The university owns some land north of University Ave., including Pan Am Plaza, as well as the 48-acre horse farm, located west of the campus and managed by the Department of Animal and Range Sciences.

The bulk of NMSU's holdings - slightly more than 80,000 acres - are associated with a set of agricultural science research centers under the auspices of the College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences. Of the 12 such centers around the state, NMSU owns part or all of the land at nine of them.

The largest of these science centers is the 60,800-acre Chihuahuan Desert Rangeland Research Center, formerly known as the College Ranch, is located north of Las Cruces in Dona Ana County. Most of the research carried on there is related to rangeland health, the assessment of various cattle breeds' suitability for arid lands and targeted grazing practices. The CDRRC shares a long border with the USDA Jornada Experimental Range and both entities participate in the NMSU-based Jornada Basin Long-Term Ecological Research project funded since 1982 by the National Science Foundation.

Also in Dona Ana County are the Fabian Garcia Science Center, 45 acres straddling University Ave. west of campus, and the Leyendecker Plant Science Research Center, a 203-acre farm along the Rio Grande about six miles south of campus.

Among the highlights at the Fabian Garcia center are a landscape demonstration garden, the Chile Pepper Institute's teaching and demonstration garden, grape vineyards, algal biofuels research equipment and a gazebo available to the public for events. The facility also includes fields and greenhouses for plant research projects.

The Leyendecker science center includes 27 acres of pecan research orchards, as well as significant acreage rotated among chiles, onions, cotton, alfalfa and other forage crops. As part of a broad initiative on glandless cotton, two indoor 4,300-gallon tanks are being used to test cottonseed-meal-based feed for inland shrimp production. Other research involves weeds and plant pests. The facility also hosts New Mexico's official seed certification program.

NMSU owns 18,138 acres of the 27,886-acre Corona Range and Livestock Research Center, located near the town of Corona and the state's geographic center. The remaining 9,748 acres are leased from the Bureau of Land Management. The ranch includes acreage in both Lincoln and Torrance counties. To a certain extent, the facility has a mission parallel to that of the Chihuahuan Desert research center, but carried out at a higher altitude. It is also the home of the new Southwest Center for Rangeland Sustainability, an outreach and conference facility that also supports Corona's education and research activities.

The five other agricultural science centers that occupy NMSU-owned lands all focus predominantly on agronomic and horticultural research to serve constituencies in their geographic regions. Three are on the eastern side of the state.

The Agricultural Science Center at Tucumcari, which just celebrated its centennial year as a research facility, is a 465-acre parcel. Its main priorities were originally dryland crop production, cattle feeding and tree and shrub research. When irrigation water became widely available, its research focus shifted accordingly. With the ongoing drought in that part of the state, it is initiating a partnership with the City of Tucumcari to study the use of treated wastewater in crop production.

Also on the eastern side of the state is the 160-acre Agricultural Science Center at Clovis, where research on forage and grain crops, and particularly alternative crops that can thrive on less water, is a high priority. The Clovis center is home to a peanut breeding program, and due to the strength of the dairy industry in the area, is also the hub of NMSU's Extension dairy outreach and education programming.

The Artesia Science Center sits on 160 acres in the Pecos River Valley in the southeastern corner of the state. Much of the research is on irrigated crops using various types of irrigation systems supplied by an artesian well. Agronomic research projects involve alfalfa and other forage crops, cotton, corn, chiles and pecans, among others. Integrated pest management is also a major strength.

More centrally located in the state is the Agricultural Science Center at Los Lunas, which sits on 210 acres in the Middle Rio Grande Valley and supports research of relevance to the area's small-to-medium-sized farmers and urban horticulturalists. Integrated pest management is a major research strength there, as well. It is also home to the Plant Material Center, an operation funded by the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service to study the utilization of various plants in restoration and reclamation endeavors.

The Sustainable Agriculture Science Center at Alcalde is a 61-acre farm on the Rio Grande north of Espanola. Meeting the needs of the small family farmers and ranchers in the north-central part of the state is its top priority. Organic fruit production is a major focus, as is hydrological research involving acequias. It is also the home of the Rural Agricultural Improvement and Public Affairs Project, a support program for agricultural enterprises in some of the state's most economically depressed counties.

NMSU is well known for its Cooperative Extension Service presence in all 33 New Mexico counties and additional Extension support for several Native American tribes and pueblos. Less well known is the important role of NMSU's extensive landholdings spread strategically around the state, many of which play a huge role in the research, education and outreach missions of the institution.

For more about NMSU's system of agricultural science centers, go to http://aces.nmsu.edu/aes/offcampus.html.

Written by Jay A. Rodman



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