Annual field day was a success

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There was a large turnout for the field day at the Plant Materials Center in Los Lunas earlier this month. The educational event is popular with local gardeners, commercial growers and retail shop owners.

The field day is put together by New Mexico State University, in partnership with the Natural Resource Conservation Service and the Los Lunas Plant Materials Center. It showcases the latest research in hybrid plants, soil- erosion control, pest and weed management.

Deborah Fox-News-Bulletin photo: VEGETABLE SPECIALIST Stephanie Walker, from New Mexico State University Cooperative Extension Service, gave a presentation on mechanized chile harvesting last week at the Los Lunas Plant Material Center in Los Lunas. It was a feature in the annual field day, produced in partnership with NMSU and NRCS.

A steady stream of clouds floating overhead and a light breeze kept the temperatures comfortable as trolley tours took loads of people to the research plots for presentations.

Greenhouse growers and plant sellers from as far away as Colorado attended to see the latest innovations, hoping for new remedies to chronic problems.

The research in pest management for organic growing systems is showing positive results for a synthetic pheromone spray to combat orchard bugs.

Pheromones are a chemical secreted during mating by animals and bugs. The synthetic spray acts as a mating disrupter for the greater peach-tree borer, a bug similar to the codling moth that affects apple orchards, and fools the mature borers preventing reproduction.

The adult peach-tree borer lays eggs on the tree’s trunk and, when hatched, the larvae travel down the tree to bore under the bark to eat. They can girdle a young tree and reduce the productivity of mature trees, said Tess Grasswitz, integrated pest management specialist at NMSU.

Small dispensers that look like a common bread bag twist-tie are placed in the trees to disrupt male moth’s detection of the females, preventing her from laying eggs.

“(The dispensers) go on in May, and you don’t have to do anything more for the rest of the season,” said Grasswitz. “And in two years of doing this, we reduced the peach-tree borer population in our original orchard from an average of nearly 60 percent infestation down to just about 1 percent infested. So it has worked very well in that early trial.”

There are different mating disruption products for codling moth control in apples, because they have a different pheromone, she said. The products are specific for different pests, and are available commercially.

Growing Chinese Jujube fruit trees in New Mexico is catching on from research begun in 2010 by Shengrui Yao, assistant professor and fruit specialist from NMSU Sustainable Agricultural Science Center at Alcalde.

The Jujube fruit tree is native to China and has been cultivated there for 4,000 years. Cultivars were first imported into the United States in 1908 and do well, especially in the Southwest area, from Texas to California, said Yao.

“In New Mexico, there are existing jujube plants from Alcalde, EspaƱola to Las Cruces,” she said.

Jujube trees are late-bloomers, so they avoid late frosts, and also adapt well to a wide range of soil and weather conditions, she said.

“The mature trees are drought-tolerant, but for young trees you need to water them as others during their first several years after planting,” Yao said.

Jujube plants are available in some nurseries around the region.

Other crop research includes cultivating a chile that can be harvested by machine. The chile candidates include Joe Parker and Despanado.

Despanado is an easy de-stemming New Mexico-type green chile cultivar developed in Arizona, said Stephanie Walker, NMSU extension vegetable specialist.

The main breeding goal priorities are easy stem removal, consistent size and shape, with fruit setting off the ground as well as predictable heat level and the excellent New Mexican chile flavor profile, she said.

There are several types of commercially available chile harvesters being used on red chile that NMSU has researched on green chile.

“The Yung-Etgar double-helix picking head, commercially available from a company in Israel, did the best job of gently picking green chile,” Walker said.

There is a New Mexico landrace variety trial in progress that is looking at the various qualities and attributes of each.

A mini field day will begin at 9 a.m., Thursday, Aug. 29, at the Plant Material Center at 1036 Miller Road off N.M. 314 in Los Lunas. The phone number is 865-7340.


-- Email the author at dfox@news-bulletin.com.