Harvesting has begun in the lower Rio Grande Valley of New Mexico and the prospects for a bumper chile crop are looking good. "This year is going to be our best in many years," said chile specialist Stephanie Walker of NMSU. Dry weather has helped to keep down diseases such as phytophthora (a fungus) and leaf spot. Last year the state produced 60,140 tons of chile, a 23 percent increase over 2007. The crop was valued at $42.3 million without counting value-added chile products. New Mexico grows more hot peppers than all the other states combined.