Sustainable Agriculture Science Center at Alcalde

We are open Monday through Friday from 7:30am - 4:30pm; closed for lunch from 12:00 - 1:00pm.

For general information or questions, please contact the Rio Arriba County Extension Service at 505-685-4523 (Abiquiu) or 575-588-7423 (Tierra Amarilla). Or go to Rio Arriba County Extension Services.

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Presa Wheel
Presa with Wheel (Photo Taken by Adrienne Rosenberg)

Scientia Publishes "Empowering High Desert Communities Built for Change: Acequia Project"

Scientia, a science communication publication, just published an article outlining acequia research conducted by a collaborative team of researchers from New Mexico State University (including SASC Alcalde's Steve Guldan), the University of New Mexico, Sandia National Laboratories, and the New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology. The project was funded by the National Science Foundation in order to investigate how humans and nature interact in a mutually beneficial relationship through our historical and crucial acequia systems. The multifaceted study examined the aspects of socioeconomics, culture, hydrology, and ecosystems in order to understand potential "tipping points" and feedback loops associated with population growth and climate change.

A book with the summary and results of the project will be available in 2019. Contact Adrienne Rosenberg at for more information.

Robert Heyduck in High Tunnel with Cucumbers
Robert Heyduck in High Tunnel Harvesting Cucumbers (Photo Taken by Adrienne Rosenberg)

SASC Alcalde Experiments with Growing Cucumbers in High Tunnels for Summer Crop

SASC Alcalde is continuously experimenting with various row crops in the high tunnels/ hoop houses in order to determine the advantages of growing inside these protected, warm environments. In the past, the Science Center has experimented with raspberries and winter greens, but never with an annual summer crop. Rob Heyduck, Senior Research Assistant, has conducted trials for the past two seasons with Corinto ("slicer") and Picolino ("cocktail") cucumbers. The intention of this research is to compare yield and harvest time from inside the hoop house and outside in the field.

The Picolino and Corinto cucumbers, both mosaic resistant, were started in pots in organic potting media and placed in a 16 x 40 ft high tunnel. In mid- May, after the danger of frost had passed, these seedlings were transplanted inside the high tunnel while an equal number were planted outside in a plot. Both varieties were also direct seeded, equal in number, inside the hoop and outside in the field.

All cucumber plants were trained to a single leader up a bamboo stake and twine affixed to a trellis wire at five ft above the ground. In addition, flowers and fruits were pruned from the vines below a height of 30 inches to allow the vines to become well established. When a vine reached 30 inches, fruits were allowed to mature and were harvested at a target size relative to variety recommendations (95-135 mm for Picolino and 165-205 mm for Corinto). Each harvested cucumber was then assessed for length, girth, weight, and marketability.

As of 5 Sept, 2018, 1,583 cucumbers were harvested, or 224 kg, compared to 2,176 cucumbers weighing 273 kg harvested by the same date in 2017. Fruit marketability also declined, with 58% meeting USDA No. 1 quality as compared to 62% in 2017. Warm weather early in the 2018 season appeared to encourage growth, and harvesting began a week earlier than in 2017, but highs in the 90s through much of June and July appeared to slow fruit production. Picolino far outnumbered the yield of Corinto but Corinto has outweighed the Picolino.

In addition, insect pests appear to be more active this year, especially affecting the quality of the thinner-skinned Picolino. Rotation is suggested in order to mitigate bug issues. No formal analyses of the differences between the varieties or planting method have been conducted at this time. The cucumber harvests will continue until frost.

Rob's hope is that SASC can provide farmers and gardeners with guidance on how to build an appropriate grow structure as well as how to utilize the structure year around, not just in the shoulder and winter seasons. Currently, Rob and SASC are assessing the data.

Update: Oregano de la Sierra and Honey Bee Trials

Bee Balm with Purple Blooms
Bee Balm (Photo Taken by Melanie Kirby)

In July of 2018, SASC sent nectar and honey samples off to San Juan College for gas chromatography analysis. It is well known that Oregano de la Sierra (Monarda fistulosa) produces the antibacterial compounds carvacrol and thymol, which make the plant taste like "oregano." But if the bees feed on Monarda's nectar, do those components show up in the gathered nectar in the hive?

Unfortunately, the samples' results portray the two properties in the nectar but not in the stored honey. Therefore, it is unknown if the honey from Monarda pollen and nectar actually benefit bees. There were some changes in disease and mite levels. Mite loads decreased after feeding on the Oregano de la Sierra crop but it was observed that the levels rose again by the end of September.

The research trials were funded for one year. There is no more incoming data.

Shengrui Yao with Jujube Tree
Shengrui Yao with Jujube Tree (Photo Taken by Jane Moorman)

NMSU Launches Website Featuring Newly Trademarked Jujube Cultivars

AmeriZao is the new trademarked name for jujube fruit trees tested by New Mexico State University's College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences.

"Since these cultivars are originally from China, where Zao is the word for this fruit, I wanted to keep the traditional name in the trademark," said Shengrui Yao, NMSU Extension fruit specialist. "AmeriZao cultivars are American jujubes since they have been propagated and tested in New Mexico."

Yao hopes the NMSU Jujube website will help people identify the cultivar of jujube they may currently own, or help growers select cultivars in the future.

Hive Bar of Full of Bees
Bar of Bees (Photo Courtesy of Zia Queen Bees)

SASC at Alcalde Part of Team that Receives USDA Grant to Conduct Experiment with Honey Bees and Oregano de la Sierra

The NMSU SASC has partnered with San Juan College, the USDA-ARS Bee Research Lab, and a pair of local producers (Melanie Kirby and Mark Spitzig of Zia Queen Bees and farmer Todd Bates) in an experiment entitled "From Bloom to Boom: Investigating Oregano de la Sierra (Monarda fistulosa) for Potential Bee and Human Health."

The project received a year long USDA Specialty Crop Block Grant Program (SCBGP) in 2016. The team will determine the phytochemicals present in the nectar of Monarda fistulosa var menthifolia and in honey originating from its flowers, and evaluate their effects on bee health and nutrition. At each of three Northern New Mexico sites, bees will be fed Monarda nectar in isolation and free-choice. Nectar and honey will be analyzed by gas chromatography for a range of plant chemical compounds that have shown bactericidal, viricidal, and miticidal activity in previous research, among them carvacrol, thymol, p-cymene. By feeding bees in isolation and free-choice, the team will seek to determine a potential bee preference and evaluate the parasite loads of bees fed different diets. The team also aims to identify a range of native pollinators that also visit Monarda. Results will be disseminated through a local field day, through the website Herbs4Bees, and at national and international professional meetings.

The goal, as a team of professional farmers and researchers, is to examine and promote Monarda as a new crop and/or accessory planting to positively affect bee health in situ and also produce a hive product and field crop that can be processed in a number of ways either as honey, a dried herb (flowers and leaves), or as an extracted product containing the volatile compounds.

Students a Building Hoop House
Students Building a Hoop House (Photo Taken by Jane Moorman)

NMSU Receives USDA Grant to Expand Agricultural Education Program to 18 Pueblos

New Mexico State University's beginning farmers and ranchers program that helps Native American farmers and ranchers succeed in agriculture has been extended three more years and expanded to include both the eight northern and 10 southern pueblos. For the past three years, NMSU's Cooperative Extension Service's Rural Agricultural Improvement and Public Affairs Project has conducted the Southern Pueblos Beginning Farmers and Ranchers Program helping 59 Native American beginning farmers and ranchers to improve their agricultural operation.

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Sustainable Agriculture Science Center at Alcalde
371 County Road 40
P.O. Box 159
Alcalde, N.M. 87511
Phone: (505) 852-4241
Fax: (505) 852-2857


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