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Drought forcing ag producers to adapt

CLOVIS — Extended dry conditions have prompted agricultural producers to change their thinking and farming practices in order to adapt.

As the eastern New Mexico region continues in one of the driest years on record and as irrigation sources diminish, area farmers are looking for alternatives that will be sustainable while remaining profitable.

Alternative management of existing crops, as well as the introduction of less-utilized crops, will be topics of interest at New Mexico State University’s annual Clovis Field Day Thursday at the Agricultural Science Center at Clovis.

“This year’s event will focus on some of the projects at the science center that address the most pressing issue we are facing with regional agricultural today — water shortages,” said Mark Marsalis, Extension agronomist at the Clovis science center. “We’ve known for a while that irrigation water was becoming more and more limited, but this year’s drought has shown us just how dire the situation is. Some producers have already abandoned planted acres because water quantity just isn’t enough to keep up with crop demand.”

“To remain in business, farmers are confronted with the challenge of maintaining high levels of productivity, while limiting input costs and protecting natural resources to sustain agricultural production for years to come,” said Rex Kirksey, center superintendent. “Once we find a way of doing things that works, we tend to stick with the same routine. The purpose of the Clovis Field Day is to present some new technologies and innovative ideas to agricultural producers for possible integration into their own operations. The faculty at the Clovis center and the invited speakers will be sharing a wealth of information on agricultural production options.”

At the field day, Leonard Lauriault, NMSU forage agronomist at the Agricultural Science Center at Tucumcari, will discuss the best ways to manage alfalfa with limited water resources and in drought conditions. Several acres of alfalfa in the region have been cut off from water in order for farmers to divert that water to a more pressing corn crop. Lauriault will also give an update on the Roundup Ready alfalfa release and potential utilization for New Mexico hay growers.

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Marsalis will address the topic of dryland corn for the area.

“We’ve begun a project that looks at comparisons of dryland corn and grain sorghum. Interest in corn grown without irrigation has increased in recent years and will likely continue to do so as more producers face the reality of no water for irrigation,” Marsalis said. Many growers are waiting to see if corn can be as productive as dryland milo while minimizing risk.

Robert Hagevoort, NMSU Extension dairy specialist, will give a dairy update and will discuss the current state of New Mexico’s dairy industry and how recent crop shortages and high prices will affect feed purchasing decisions.

Naveen Puppala, NMSU peanut breeder, will provide information on management of Valencia peanuts during periods of extended drought and also how yield and quality are affected by different digging dates.

Registration starts at 8 a.m. For more information contact Marsalis in advance at 575-985-2292 or marsalis@nmsu.edu.

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