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Field Day visitors take in collaborations, experiments

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FARMINGTON — Visitors to the New Mexico State University Agricultural Science Center got a glimpse into the crop production, collaborations and experiments taking place there during a field day on Friday.

The agricultural science center is located approximately 7 miles southwest of Farmington and is situated on 254 acres of land leased from the Navajo Nation.

Visitors spent two hours touring the location, including stops at the center's vineyard, hybrid poplar trees, wheat and corn fields, and a conservation area.

Among the projects highlighted on the tour was a first-year collaboration to grow blue corn from heirloom seeds that originated at Isleta Pueblo.

Tim Vos, an agroecology specialist for the New Mexico Landrace Corn Project, said the nonprofit organization teamed with NMSU two years ago for the project, but this is the first time blue corn has been planted at the agricultural science center.

"This corn right here was the kind that was grown by your grandparents. Especially in this region by native farmers and more recently, by Hispanic farmers and some Anglos, too," Vos said.

One reason the Santa Fe-based organization is growing the blue corn is due to its taste, which is more delicious, and its high nutritional value, he said.

Koffi Djaman, assistant professor for agronomy at the agricultural science center, said the blue corn is growing organically and in an area where no fertilizer was applied.

Weeds have been an obstacle for the project, but personnel have been pulling the unwanted plants by hand to alleviate the problem, Djaman said.

In addition to the work at the agricultural science center, the organization is working with farmers on the Navajo Nation, in Zuni Pueblo and in southern New Mexico. Those collaborations will help in understanding and preserving heirloom seeds, Vos said.

"We learn a lot from the research," he said.

Another section of the center is being used to grow rows of sweet corn, and use moth traps to study the pressure of earworms.

Plots are also used to study potatoes grown for potato chip production, and another project is underway to identify an earlier selection for Navajo sweet watermelon.

"This is kind of what we do. We do research and development, trial and error, and then we make recommendations to farmers," said Kevin Lombard, superintendent for the agricultural science center.

Noel Lyn Smith covers the Navajo Nation for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4636 or by email at nsmith@daily-times.com.

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