Field day focuses on sorghum, safflower

New Mexico agriculture lives on despite the prominence of drought, according to New Mexico State University agricultural scientists.

More than 70 agricultural minds gathered onto two trailers Saturday morning for a tour of the crops at the NMSU Agricultural Science Center at Clovis.

"My dad said he'd rather be dried out than mudded out," area farmer Hoyt Pattison reminisced, laughing with his counterparts. "That's why he liked this area better than Indiana. Boy, he'd really like it today."

The theme during the center's annual field day was how sorghum and safflower studies seem to be faring in New Mexico and west Texas.

Agricultural scientists gave presentations, telling how crop research is faring with climate, herbicides, disease and types of tilling.

Rick Kochenower, a specialist from the Ohio State University Panhandle Research and Extension Center, gave details on the results of a study on the affects of reduced tillage in crops.

Tillage is preparation of crop soil by a variety of mechanical agitation, such as digging, stirring and overturning.

"I'm a huge believer in no-till because I don't care what crop you're growing; it's water that's going to make the difference," Kochenower told his audience. "But guys have raised some of their best corn by going to strip-till."

Strip-tillage is minimum tillage in which the only crop soil disturbed is that containing the seeds.

Kochenower said sorghum crops which received strip-tillage just before planting faired better than those which received it after.

He said spring strip-till crops produce almost the same yield (crop output) as no-till crops when tilled before planting.

Kochenower also said strip-till crops fared better in the spring than in the fall season.

He said increased rainfall and moisture during the time of the study, along with planting dates, could have impacted the improvement in the spring crops.

"I've talked to farmers who were skeptical of no-till but then they get out there and realize it's not that big of an issue," Kochenower said.

Sukhbir Singh, an NMSU graduate student working at the Clovis site, told conference attendees that safflower, a relative to the sunflower, is a new crop to eastern New Mexico, which produces seeds that supply high quality vegetable oil.

Sangu Angadi, a crop stress physiologist, added that safflower grows well in the spring but not in the winter as opposed to canola crops, also a plant used for vegetable oil, which grow well in both seasons due to being cold-tolerant.

He said what is left of safflower seeds after the oil is removed is a protein supplement which can serve as cattle feed, making safflower an even more productive crop.

Mark Marsalis, NMSU extension agronomist, gave a presentation on a sorghum study being done with new herbicides called Sharpen and Verdict.

Marsalis said the objective of the study was to determine the potential for crop injury on different types of sorghum with varying rates of the herbicide applied to the crops.

Marsalis said scientists applied none of the herbicides to some crops while applying varying amounts in other places for results.

He said some crops exposed to Verdict over an extended period of time had the negative side affect of stunted growth.

"We haven't really gotten any yield data so we can't really talk about that yet," Marsalis said of the overall results of the study.

"It was dry in the 30s; it was dry in the 50s; and it's dry now," Pattison said of how numerous crops are impacted by the drought. "But with optimism, it will rain one day."

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