WESLACO – The First Joint Organic Conference will begin at 6 p.m. Dec. 10 at the Texas AgriLife Research and Extension Center at Weslaco, 2401 Business Highway 83.
The conference will highlight short studies done by students at South Texas College on organic vegetable production in cooperation with specialists and scientists with Texas AgriLife Extension Service and Texas AgriLife Research, according to Dr. Raul Villanueva, an AgriLife Extension entomologist.
“This is all part of a U.S. Department of Agriculture grant awarded in 2010 to work with students as well as organic transition growers in the Rio Grande Valley who farm fewer than ten acres,” Villanueva said.
Eight South Texas College students were selected to receive $3,000 scholarships to work for one year on organic vegetable production with Texas AgriLife specialists and scientists, he said.
“Some of the student studies included work on grapes, leaf-cutting ants, natural enemies in conventional and organic crops and finding pest populations and natural enemies in crops using different types of mulch,” Villanueva said. “Students also met with organic growers to discuss vegetable production.”
Students will present their findings at the conference, which is free and open to the public.
“In our work with small-acreage organic growers, we set up research field plots both at the center in Weslaco and at growers’ fields,” Villanueva said. “In the summer, we evaluated onions and watermelons grown organically on grower properties, and just recently we planted trials here at the center of cabbage, peppers and tomatoes.”
Presentations to growers included results of trials Villanueva conducted using organic pesticides and the challenge of controlling weeds in growing organic vegetables.
“There are no organic herbicides, so controlling weeds requires lots of soil preparation and tillage to remove the weeds,” he said.
Speakers and their topics include Villanueva who will discuss his insecticide trials; Dr. Luis Ribera, an AgriLife Extension agricultural economist at the Weslaco Center who will discuss the value of agriculture in South Texas; and Barbara Storz, an AgriLife Extension horticulturist in Hidalgo County who will discuss Growin’ Growers, a program that teaches low-income families how to grow and sell organic vegetables at a farmers market.
“And for the really adventurous, we’ll be serving some insect-based snacks and a stew that incorporate mealworms and Mexican grasshoppers,” Villanueva said.
For more information, contact Villanueva at 956-968-5581, or email email@example.com .