It’s chile pepper season, and New Mexicans are awaiting this year’s crop to be harvested and roasted – which also means it’s time for New Mexico State University’s biennial chile pepper field day. This year’s the event will be held online, due to state restrictions on gatherings during the pandemic.

The virtual event will be available starting at 2 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 9, on Facebook, at facebook.com/NMSULosLunasASC. Chile enthusiasts may watch it and share it at their leisure.

During the online program, chile growers, whether gardeners, or small, medium or large commercial producers, and chile enthusiasts will learn about the latest research the College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences is doing at the NMSU Agricultural Science Center at Los Lunas.

“Chile Field Day has been a popular event,” said Stephanie Walker, NMSU Extension vegetable specialist and chile pepper researcher. “People enjoy learning about our various projects, from breeding trials for mechanical harvesting to landrace chile research.”

A new cultivar of green chile peppers that Walker has been developing will be one highlight of the program.

“We have been working on a plant architecture and fruit attributes that would perform better during mechanical harvest,” Walker said. “After many years of traditional selective breeding in the field and several years of replicating it in trials, we have settled on a new variety that we hope to release very soon.”

During the virtual program, Walker will explain what makes this variety better for mechanical harvesting.

Walker will give an update on research conducted in collaboration with Paul Funk of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Research Service in Las Cruces, in green chile mechanical harvest research, and provide a demonstration of the machine.

Other research will be presented by the graduate students conducting the studies:
• Participatory breeding project for New Mexico, by Brad Tonneseen
• Development of easy destemming markers for New Mexico green chile breeding, by Francesca Ortega

Other presentations will include:
• An overview of New Mexico landrace chiles will be presented by Chuch Havlik, senior research assistant at the Los Lunas science center.
• Ornamental chiles for home gardens by Marisa Thompson, NMSU Extension urban horticulture specialist, and Danise Coon, senior research specialist with the New Mexico Chile Pepper Institute.
• “Scouting for Chile Pests,” by Amanda Skidmore, NMSU Extension integrated pest management specialist.

Chile pepper researcher Dennis Lozada, who joined NMSU in July to lead the chile pepper breeding and genetics program, will be introduced during the program.

A chile field day would not be complete without roasting green chiles. Havlik will demonstrate the traditional roasting of chiles.

Sponsors of the various research projects include NMSU Agricultural Experiment Stations, New Mexico Chile Association, New Mexico Chile Commission, Western Region Sustainable Agriculture and Education and the U.S. Department of Agriculture National Institute of Food and Agriculture in collaboration with the University of California-Davis.

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