LAS CRUCES, N.M. (AP) — Efforts are underway to save the green chile that's important to traditional New Mexican fare as labor shortages, a previous severe drought and competition from China, India and Mexico endanger its growth in the state.
The Las Cruces Sun-News reports that investors and inventors are running tests this week of machines that would harvest and de-stem the crop. The delicate chiles are now picked by hand, and problems with bruising and removing their stems have made the change to machines difficult.
New Mexico land dedicated to growing chile has long been declining, and experts say mechanization might stop or even reverse the trend. Federal numbers show overall chile acreage harvested across New Mexico fell last year to a 43-year low.
The trial runs involve harvesting machines from U.S. and Israeli company's and an American inventor's device to pull the stems.