FARMINGTON — Dozens of people interested in agricultural science learned more about raising crops on Friday during an open house at the New Mexico State University Agricultural Science Center in Farmington.

The annual event allows the public to visit the center's facility and learn about the projects and experiments staff are working on.

During a two-hour tour, guests explored the nearly 250-acre facility, stopping at various spots to discuss work professors and staff have completed on a number of crops, including alfalfa, canola, corn, poplar trees, hops and grapes, as well as experiments on different irrigation systems.

Curtis Owen, a research assistant with New Mexico State University, speaks on Friday during a tour of the university’s Agricultural Science Center in
Curtis Owen, a research assistant with New Mexico State University, speaks on Friday during a tour of the university's Agricultural Science Center in Farmington. (Jon Austria /The Daily Times)

Also on the tour were members of the university's administration, including NMSU President Garrey Carruthers, Board of Regents President Mike Cheney and Executive Vice President and Provost Dan Howard.

Carruthers said he enjoys visiting the university's 12 off-campus agricultural science centers around the state. He believes the Farmington facility is an important location because of its proximity to Navajo Agricultural Products Industry.

"This one in particular is important to New Mexico because of its relationship to NAPI," Carruthers said. "It's so important we are engaged with the Navajo Nation and trying to develop their agricultural industry."

After taking a tour of facility, Carruthers said he didn't know about the work the center's staff is doing with irrigation systems.

Staff have been experimenting with a pressurized drip irrigation system on tomatoes and six different types of chile peppers, said Mick O'Neil, a professor in the university's College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences.

Another system being tested at the facility is a low-pressure drip irrigation system, in which water is supplied through piping from an elevated reservoir, like a barrel, pond or ditch. The irrigation systems are being tested for use in gardens where access to water is limited.

President of New Mexico State University Garrey Carruthers examines hops on Friday during a tour of New Mexico State University’s Agricultural
President of New Mexico State University Garrey Carruthers examines hops on Friday during a tour of New Mexico State University's Agricultural Science Center in Farmington. (Jon Austria/ The Daily Times)

O'Neil said some of the alternative crops the facility has been experimenting with include grapes, hybrid poplar trees, hop plants and plants for medicinal use.

The staff has been examining what types of grapes have a short growing season because the Four Corners tends to have a late frost in the spring and an early frost in the fall.

"The best thing is having people come up to us and say, 'Oh, I never knew this was here,'" O'Neil said about the open house. "For them to take the knowledge back to their home community, that's what we are all about."

Joshua Kellogg covers education forThe Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4527 and jkellogg@daily-times.com. Follow him @jkelloggdt on Twitter.