Projects & Results

The NMSU Agricultural Science Center (ASC) researches many varieties of trees, grasses and forbs, vegetables, and fruits. Currently, the ASC is performing research in the areas of integrated pest management (IPM), alfalfa variety testing, chile production, weed control, and alternative fruit trees.

The NRCS Plant Materials Center located at the ASC is actively working on salt tolerant crops and native plant propagation. Salinity is a serious problem in New Mexico due to prolonged irrigation of surface or sub-surface water containing a high-salt content, with little or no leaching in the field soil.

Development of economic crops with high salt tolerance could utilize the abundant supply of underground saline water that is unsuitable for industrial or domestic purposes.

USDA-NRCS PMC Research Areas

Developing a conservation plant is essentially a six-step process:

  1. Once a problem is identified, assemblies of promising species are made. These assemblies, known as accessions, include both native and foreign ecotypes. The accessions are planted in a nursery and evaluated for those characteristics important to solving the problem.
  2. Once the field is narrowed to a few selections, seed increase begins to provide sufficient material for advanced testing.
  3. In advanced testing, plants are rigorously screened to select the best accession for that conservation purpose. In this stage cultural practices such as seed production and planting techniques are refined.
  4. The testing continues when selected plants are used in field plantings (FPs). In FPs, potential releases are evaluated under the actual conditions that are present on the problem sites. FPs are often done by landowners and targeted users.
  5. The plant becomes a released variety when it has passed all screening and field planting phases. At this time, a name is assigned. Information programs notify potential users of the release, and its potential value as a conservation plant.
  6. Once a plant is released, the PMC maintains foundation seed production to ensure sufficient amounts of seed. The foundation seed stocks are distributed to commercial seed producers for their seed production activities and marketing.

USDA-NRCS PMC Releases

The Los Lunas Plant Materials Center has released 31 grasses, forbs, shrubs and trees for conservation use. This represents more releases than any other PMC. Among the Los Lunas PMC releases are:

  • 'Barranco' Desert Willow
  • 'Hachita' Blue Grama
  • 'Bandera' Rocky Mtn. Penstemon
  • 'Ganada' Yellow Bluestem
  • 'Jose' Tall Wheatgrass
  • 'Luna' Pubescent Wheatgrass