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New Mexico’s green chiles are vulnerable to climate change

The annual Chile Festival in the village of Hatch, New Mexico, will always bolster sales of the hot vegetable, attracting around 15,000 chile connoisseurs and hobbyists from as far as West Virginia, Louisiana and Florida. However, local growers can’t help worrying about the crop’s uncertain future and its profitability.

According to Stephanie Walker, a chile specialist at the Chile Pepper Institute at New Mexico State University, the continued drought and an unprecedented workforce shortage worsened by the pandemic have shaken the state’s agribusiness. “We’re definitely at a breaking point now,” she said.

Chile peppers, which are originally native to South America, were introduced to the harsh, iron-rich red earth of what’s now New Mexico over four centuries ago. However, New Mexico’s hottest commodity is quite delicate. It doesn’t thrive below 60 degrees Fahrenheit and can be killed by even a light frost, but it can also be harmed by high temperatures; it doesn’t fruit above 95 degrees.

This doesn’t bode well in a climate that’s growing hotter and more unpredictable every year. In just two decades, the Southwest is projected to heat up by more than the global average of 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit. It will also be increasingly battered by extreme weather events like spring freezes and heat waves, according to an August report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

Source: hcn.org

 

Photo source: Dreamstime.com


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