Chile farmers brace for rain
By Brook Stockberger
Las Cruces Bulletin
The monsoon giveth and the monsoon taketh.
Sure, rain can be good for growing crops, but about a month into the green chile harvesting season, the agriculture community is concerned the so-far-mild rainy season will soon make the lives of farmers more difficult.
“Knock on wood, things are going good, but (there could be) a big storm coming in,” said Paul Bosland, with the Chile Pepper Institute at New Mexico State University. “This week and next week there is a lot of peak harvesting.”
Preston Mitchell, a member of the Hatch Chile Association board, said growers have been dreading an increase in precipitation.
“Overall the harvest has been good,” Mitchell said. “But we’ve been fighting with rain last couple of days. Rain is not good for chile (harvesting). It makes things difficult.”
Anthony Parra, deputy director with the New Mexico Department of Agriculture, said wet fields can cause problems.
“Limited moisture usually means less chance of disease in the fields,” he said. “This translates into great quality. However, with the streak of hot weather and little monsoon, some fields have been affected by a disorder called blossom end rot.”
Still, Parra said the harvest has been mostly positive.
“The harvest is in full swing and going strong,” he said. With the drier summer, the department is getting reports that quality is very good.
“However, there are not any hard-and-fast indications of what the harvest will yield,” Parra said. “Every field is unique and matures at its own pace.”
He said chile roasters usually show up at stores etc. a couple of weeks before Labor Day.
“Peak demand for chile roasting at the stores extends into late September,” he said.
He said the length of the harvest, which has been going on since mid to late July depending on the farm, is weather dependent.
“Typically, harvest lasts until the second or third week of October,” Parra said. “Some years the freeze comes earlier; some years the freeze comes later.”
As for red chile harvest, it usually starts about the middle of October.
Brook Stockberger may be reached a 575 680-1977 or online at brook@lascrucesbulletin. com.