Recent rains to determine New Mexico's chile crop success

Updated: 08/04/2014 7:01 PM | Created: 08/04/2014 5:51 PM
By: Stuart Dyson, KOB Eyewitness News 4

Right now is a critical time for New Mexico’s world-famous chile crop.

It will either get just enough rain and come in strong and healthy – or it will get too much too soon and wilt and wither in the fields.

Look up “chile field” in the dictionary and there ought to be a picture of the ones Glen Duggins farms near Lemitar in Socorro County, along with his son Kyle.

Weed-free, perfect rows, beautiful crop.

Duggins says he will harvest about 30,000 sacks of chile from 50 acres of farmland – that’s about 50,000 to 60,000 bushels.

He’s growing five different varieties, including the vicious Sandia Hot.

Duggins said you can tell the heat by the color of the veins inside the chile.

"The more yellow it is the hotter it is,” Duggins said while a reporter bit into a Sandia just plucked from the plant. “ I bet that one’s got a little heat.”

He was right.

But the rains that have swollen the nearby Rio Grande are a threat right now, about two weeks from harvest time.

Too much rain starts to kill the roots.

The rest of the plant wilts and the chiles wither and never reach maturity.

“It doesn’t like rain,” Duggins said. “It likes a little shower here and there, and you can see the ground is wet from the rain, but this time it just caught us just when we needed to irrigate. We got an inch of rain about three days ago.”

The Duggins chile is called “Five Star”.

You’ll find it in clearly marked burlap sacks at Sprouts and the Fruit Basket, fresh from the green fields of Lemitar.

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