Making plans for the 2007 crop year, whether it involves planting chilies or choosing a rotation crop, should begin now, according to New Mexico State University's Vegetable Extension Specialist Stephanie Walker and NMSU's Dona Ana County Extension Agent John White.

Here are ideas from the experts to assist 2006 chili growers in making the right crop and management decisions for the 2007 crop year.

Financial planning

Now is the time to review costs and plan for next year. Conduct a good review of the books and run some budget figures. Review 2006 costs for fertilizer, fuel and equipment and talk with dealers where costs could be in 2007. Answer the question, where is your bottom line to remain in business?

Growers should compare budgets for alternative crops. If a more profitable crop is determined, you may want to consider making a change. Remember, vegetable crops are specialized and require special equipment. — John White

Field clean up

It's time to clean up chili fields and get rid of refuse. Get rid of weeds that harbor insects that may haunt you into the next season. Properly work cull piles back into the fields, or remove them if harbored diseases are suspected. — Stephanie Walker

Diseases

It's time to look at pest and disease problems. Examine the field and make sure it's well drained and doesn't have disease problems. Make sure you'll be able to get weeds under control. — White

Drainage

If fields have drainage issues, this is the time for laser leveling. Proper drainage and water control can significantly control chili wilt. The wilt can severely affect fields with low spots. - Walker

Water quality/availability

While farmers don't have much control over the volume of water supplies and irrigation, producers should research expected water supplies in the area. Chili absorbs 3 to 4 cubic feet of water per acre annually. Good quality water is very important to vegetable crops. Chili is not very salt tolerant. - White

Farm labor

Especially if plans include growing green chilies in 2007, make sure you have the labor force for the crop season. Labor is also important for red chili growers even though 80 percent of the crop is harvested mechanically. - White

Crop rotation

Growers should not plant chilis on the same ground each year simply because they can earn a higher return. This is not a good practice. Rotate the ground with small grains or other grain crops. To control diseases, it's best to plant chili every third or fourth year of rotation. - Walker

Seed Source

A reputable source for chile seed and seed that has a high germination rate is critical. Know where the seed is coming from — it's about quality and purity. Negotiate a good contract. Red chili contracts usually require the grower to plant proprietary varieties developed by the company. With green chili, there is usually more leeway that may allow growers to plant varieties that have performed well in the past. Buy good quality seed. Cheap seed can have disease-related problems. — White and Walker