"It's an opportunity for growers to learn about high-value specialty crops, new growing techniques and marketing opportunities," said Steve Guldan, center superintendent. "For the general public, it's a chance to learn about the research we're doing here and how agriculture benefits local communities."

Visitors can participate on three revolving one-hour tours from 9 a.m. to noon that will highlight medicinal herbs and hoop houses, forage and acequia systems, and fruit production Guldan said.

On the fruit tour, fruit specialist Ron Walser will discuss organic growing methods for late-blooming stone fruits such as peaches, cherries, apricots and plums, as well as small fruits such as raspberries, blackberries, strawberries, grapes and kiwifruit.

Walser planted a 2.5-acre plot for variety trials last year. Although the fruit trees are still young, berry plants and grape vines are already producing lots of fruit, Walser said. "Participants will get a good idea of the progress growers can achieve in just one year," he said.

Visitors will also tour a 1.5-acre experimental apple orchard planted in 1996 to test early maturing varieties new to northern New Mexico. Speakers will discuss productivity of trellis and freestanding growing methods, as well as organic techniques to control codling moths, responsible for wormy apples.

Walser will demonstrate how drip irrigation and under-tree microsprinklers can save water and protect fruit against late-spring frost. The sprinklers-which are new to northern New Mexico-gently spray a mist of water on the orchard floor that avoids runoff. During a cold snap, the moisture gives off heat as it freezes, warming up the orchard, Walser said.

On the medicinal herb tour, agricultural specialist Charles Martin will discuss variety trials and organic growing methods. The herb demonstration garden has about 40 medicinal plants, including native varieties such as echinacea and yerba mansa, as well as European and Asian species.

Randy Murray, a lavender merchant who is assisting Martin in lavender variety trials, will discuss uses for lavender and market demand. Horticulture specialist George Dickerson will show how to use plastic mulch to speed up maturation of crops, conserve water and reduce weeds. Agriculture specialist Del Jimenez will talk about construction and maintenance of cold frames and hoophouses to extend the growing season, with a hoophouse on display at the center.

On the forage and acequia tour, visitors will learn about on- and off-site research in northern New Mexico, Guldan said. Natural resources specialist Manuel Encinias will discuss research on grazing patterns of cattle and elk and use of feed supplements and herding to draw animals away from riparian areas.

Guldan and forage agronomist Leonard Lauriault will discuss alfalfa variety trials, including local adaptability of kura clover, birdsfoot trefoil and cicer milkvetch, which add nitrogen to soil and can help growers improve pastures. Alfalfa trials include research on how well varieties will grow if livestock graze on plots from fall to spring.

Other tour highlights include variety trials for sorghum-sudangrass-a drought-resistant, fast-growing forage-and an acequia study to measure the effects of seepage on surface/groundwater interaction, Guldan said.

Additional presentations include Extension efforts to improve agriculture on the pueblos and use of bindweed mites to control the weed's spread.

Registration begins at 8 a.m. with a welcome at 8:30 a.m. After the tours, Jerry Schickedanz, dean of NMSU's College of Agriculture and Home Economics, will talk about the history of the Alcalde research center, followed by a free lunch.

For more information, or if you are an individual with a disability who is in need of an auxiliary aid or service to participate in the field day, call Guldan at (505) 852-4241.

Kevin Robinson-Avila is a writer for New Mexico State University.,

e-mail: kevinrob@nmsu.edu