Research tour: ShREC holds first field day since 2019
Just east of Sheridan, the University of Wyoming (UW) Sheridan Research and Extension Center (ShREC) provides dryland and irrigated land studies to facilitate research and education on agriculture, forage management, horticulture and viticulture. ShREC is one of four UW Research and Extension Centers in Wyoming.
On June 30, many local producers, as well as businesses, gathered at ShREC for tours of native plant species, cheatgrass control, cover crop studies and the participants also had the opportunity to mingle with UW leadership.
The staff at ShREC was extremely excited they were able to hold the first field day since summer of 2019.
“It’s always an exciting time for us at the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources to put on these field days,” shared UW College of Ag and Natural Resources Dean Barbara Rasco,
“We were very excited to interact with people directly,” said ShREC Director and UW Assistant Professor Brian Mealor. “We try to do outreach, but nothing compares to getting to walk through the field and answering questions producers might not have thought of by just reading about the project or research.”
UW Invasive Grass Extension Educator Jaycie Arndt also shared her excitement for the event, noting, “This is the biggest opportunity we have for us to get out into the community to talk with producers, and missing it last year felt wrong.”
Throughout 2020, ShREC was only able to operate and maintain 85 percent of research due to COVID-19.
“We had a much smaller team and our opportunities for interns last summer was severely restricted,” explained Mealor.
Native species reclamation
ShREC, along with the Bureau of Land Management, Wyoming Game and Fish, Natural Resources Conservation Service and other private entities, is working together to increase availability of native plant seed for reclamation purposes.
There are two fields at ShREC being tested for reclamation purposes of prairie coneflower and blanket flower. These two native species are desirable in terms of wildlife habitat and restoration projects. Most of the plots at ShREC were direct seeded with foundation seeds of each species.
“We have a partnership with Bridger Plant Material Center where we plant the species, get them growing and the agreement is we can have the seeds for whatever purpose we would like,” explained Assistant Research Scientist Beth Fowers, who has been tasked with developing weed management options to improve reclamation. “In the years where they need more seed, we return the seed we collect and they are able to keep population of foundation seeds up and we are able to work with them.”
Researchers are working on how to get the species to establish for reclamation purposes. Most plots are direct seeded, however they have found some species are more easily established if they are grown in a greenhouse and then transplanted.
ShREC is one of the leading research sites for monitoring and controlling invasive grass species, including cheatgrass, ventenata and medusahead.
Mealor shares, “Cheatgrass is one of the worst invasive species we have in the western U.S. and usually the most impactful.”
In Sheridan, researchers started to observe the herbicide Indaziflam on rangelands in 2015 and 2016 to control cheatgrass. A successful plot was treated once in 2016, sprayed again in 2019 and maintained its control up until last year, according to Mealor.
“When dealing with an annual grass like cheatgrass, the key is to maintain control long enough to deplete the seed bank from those sites,” explained Mealor.
Data on cheatgrass indicates the seed bank lasts between five and 11 years, and will vary based on soil type and the amount of precipitation on the landscape. During the field day, the research team briefly explained resistance could be easily built up through a solid seedbank. At this point, they have seen no indication of resistance to Indaziflam yet, but is a situation they are starting to consider.
Cover crop study
In addition to reclamation and invasive grass control, ShREC also looks into cropping in arid regions. One study in particular asked the question, “Will cover crops grow in our dry environment?”
Researchers took a traditional alfalfa field and tried to fit cover crop management into an alfalfa rotation. They established two treatments: The first, a conventional system where alfalfa is typically followed by a cereal grain or something producers might be able to get a year’s worth of hay before returning to alfalfa and a more nontraditional approach, which was the use of cover crops for two years.
“We chose hay barley for a one-year hay crop because it is typically good for forage and it can be hayed,” explained Assistant Farm Manager Tyler Jones.
At ShREC, no-till cover crop, no-till hay barley, tilled cover crop and tilled hay barley were compared.
“Growing cover crops was productive in terms of amount of forage that was produced,” says Jones. “It produced a similar quantity of forage to hay barley and it was grazed by both sheep and cattle – they both greatly appreciated the forage – they weren’t picky and cleaned it up pretty well.”
In addition, researchers found the no-till crops typically had more weeds in spite of the fact they were sprayed early on and tilled crops had significantly fewer weeds.
Cameron Magee is an intern for the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Send comments on this article to firstname.lastname@example.org