Current Edition

current edition

Crops

Lingle – The 200-plus farmers and livestock producers attending the University of Wyoming (UW) James C. Hageman Sustainable Agriculture Research and Extension Center (SAREC) Field Day and Open House in Lingle didn’t walk away disappointed after listening to presentations of ongoing research at the station on Aug. 29.

Research at SAREC is wide-ranging and encompasses projects from a wide variety of departments at UW.

Cheatgrass

The annual event kicked off with a presentation by Brian Mealor, announcing a new project he is hosting, called the Cheatgrass Restoration Challenge. This project is taking place at SAREC on one-quarter acre plots of land by 13 teams.

These teams are charged with the task of finding ways to rehabilitate these plots to diverse, productive rangeland using any legal method. This project is in its first of three years, with the final results not expected until 2017.

Bluetongue prevalence

Myrna Miller told producers she is using cattle at SAREC as part of a study that will determine the effects of climate variables and maternal antibodies on the natural transmission of the bluetongue virus.

Miller said the more the climate warms up, the more prevalent the bluetongue virus has become. The virus, which primarily affects whitetail deer, pronghorn antelope, mule deer, elk, sheep and cattle, is spread by a biting insect known as culicoides, or biting midge.

While whitetail deer can have 90 percent mortality after contacting the disease, other animal species may not even show visual symptoms. 

The focus of Miller’s research will be a comparison of calves that are antibody positive or negative. She plans to use those animals to identify the onset and intensity of the infection. She also plans to test for correlation with climate variables and compare transmission dynamics between the two groups of calves.

Fire restoration

Steve Williams discussed ongoing research and restoration projects at the Rogers Research site near Laramie Peak and the Medicine Bow National Forest.

“The Rogers research site is a forestry site, which is something new in the state of Wyoming,” Williams said. “To some degree, we have ignored forestry research in the state, when in actuality, forests make up a pretty large percentage of land use in Wyoming and serve as important habitat for wildlife.”

After the Arapahoe Fire destroyed 99.5 percent of the site in 2012, the focus of research has changed to post-fire restoration of the land.

“The focus is on establishment of Ponderosa pine and weed control,” Williams said. “We are working on the development of an erosion control seed mix and how to spread it. We are also analyzing the effects of three cutting treatments, post-fire. In one treatment we removed all the saw wood and slash from the plots. The next, only the saw wood was removed, and the slash was left. The third is un-cut controls.”

“It takes a lot of work to clear burnt timber from these plots,” he explained. “Ultimately, the slash contains quite a few nutrients that are available slowly over a long period of time.”

Other efforts

The team is also looking at how planting treatments influence restoration.

“We are doing a lot of replanting with tubular and one-year-old seedling trees. We are also replanting with seeds and allowing natural regeneration to occur as well,” Williams said.

They are also re-fencing the area to control domestic animal access.

Williams said despite the ongoing projects, there is plenty of room for other studies. One he is hoping to add in the near future is looking at the pine bark beetle and its resistance to develop in trees bred for tolerance to the insect.

Diverse presentations

Other presentations at SAREC were given by Keith Kennedy, who discussed the results of the wheat variety trials and wheat weather monitoring results; Randa Jabbour, who discussed results of her project studying beneficial insects for alfalfa production; Jeff Edwards, who summarized his pollinator plot work; and Clint Beirmann, who talked about cultural practices influencing dry bean harvest efficiency and direct harvest research.

Jenna Meeks updated the group on her research into inter-seeding fall forage crops into irrigated corn. Bob Baumgartner discussed variable rate irrigation; and Rick Vonburg discussed plans to update the agriculture department at Eastern Wyoming College.

After the presentations, the group rode on tour trailers around the facility where they were able to see the ongoing research first-hand. The research specialists were also on-hand to answer questions and provide more information about their projects.

Learn more about the Cheatgrass Challenges and other projects at SAREC in upcoming articles in the Roundup.

Gayle Smith is a correspondent for the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Send comments on this article to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Powell – Just north of Powell, the University of Wyoming (UW) Powell Research and Extension Center (PREC) combines producer and industry input to determine priorities that drive research on the station. 

Staff at PREC include Researcher Vivek Sharma, Research Associate Andi Pierson, Farm Manager Camby Reynolds, Assistant Farm Managers Brad May and Keith Schaefer and Office Associate Samantha Fulton. 

On Aug. 1, Jim Heitholt, formerly head of the UW College of Agriculture and Natural Resources Plant Sciences Department, took over as director of PREC.

On July 19, over 120 attendees gathered at PREC to check out the center’s latest research, visit with researchers, mingle with UW leadership and more. 

Fulton said, “This year, we were fortunate to have Pistol and Pete, UW’s Halflingers, at PREC, and President Laurie Nichols provided opening remarks and visited with attendees.” 

“PREC is really important for producers in the Big Horn Basin,” Fulton continued. “The basin is unique within Wyoming, and the research here helps provide farmers more information on crops, irrigation and more.”

Research focused

“2017 was a busy year, with lots of exciting research happening at PREC and in the BigHorn Basin,” Reynolds commented. “We continue our efforts with trials in crops, such as malt and feed barley, dry beans, corn and sugarbeets in an effort to identify the best varieties for the region.”

Reynolds further notes the center conducts irrigation studies under the expertise of Sharma to provide producers with more information about the water needs of crops in the basin. 

“To assist in this effort, Vivek installed a Bowen ratio-energy balance (BREB) system. BREB measures multiple variables, among them incoming and outgoing short and longwave radiation, vapor pressure, soil heat flux, soil moisture every 12 inches to a depth of five feet and evapotranspiration,” he explained. “This is an exciting addition to the research equipment at PREC.” 

Reynolds added, “Our overall goal is to help growers and crop advisors manage irrigation water more efficiently.”

Variety trials

Among the many projects taking place on the center, PREC conducts annual variety trials for barley, dry beans, wheat and more

“PREC conducts barley variety performance trials as part of an ongoing research effort,” explained Carrie Eberle, a researcher at UW. “In cooperation with private seed companies and regional small grain breeding programs, the Wyoming Agricultural Experiment Station evaluates a wide range of germplasm each year.”

In 2017, the center looked at the performance of new malting barley varieties against locally grown check varieties in collaboration with Briess Malt and Ingredients, based in Chilton, Wisc.

“With the growing number of small and craft breweries across Wyoming and the U.S. demand is increasing for new and unique malting ingredients, including malt barley,” Eberle said, noting an elite malt barley trial and western regional spring barley nursey performance evaluation were conducted, as well. “The Wyoming Seed Certification Service also funds and coordinates the dry bean variety performance evaluation at PREC.”

The unique nature of the Big Horn Basin’s climate provides for unique consideration in selecting which varieties farmers may select.

New crops

In addition to variety trials, PREC planted safflower, flax and chickpeas in the 2018 growing season, as well as spelt and emmer as part of the First Grains project.

“We are growing these crops as part of a project that looks at alternative crops to see how they’ll do in Wyoming,” Fulton said, noting private companies provide support and insight into planting and growing to support the center’s research. “Private organizations provide insight on potential herbicides and more.”

Eberle comments, “Our core goal is to see how these crops do in the Big Horn Basin. These crops are new to the area, and with recent depressed commodity prices, some farmers are looking for alternatives. These crops may help them to diversify their planting rotations.”

Another additional crop being explored at the center is goji berry, which is a high-value fruit crop with potential for growth in Wyoming.

Researchers are working to assess the performance of the cold-hardy plant to determine how long the goji berry takes to flower, fruit and grow, while also determining the yield potential of the plant.

Researchers Jeremiah Vardiman, Sadanand Dhekney and Michael Baldwin said, “To date, this study indicates that goji berry plants are suitable for fruit production in some areas. The survival rate was 98 percent, and the total yield was 0.56 pounds per plant over two harvest periods.”

The Production Agriculture Research Priorities, which were developed by Wyoming Ag Experiment Station in cooperation with producers, asked researchers to determine the economic potential for alternative crops in specific Wyoming localities to support producers. 

Baldwin, Dhekney and Vardiman explain, “Some Wyoming producers, including local food producers, are looking for alternative crops and markets to keep their operations economically viable, especially during years of poor crop prices.”

Saige Albert is managing editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Some years, native pastures and hay aftermath don’t produce as much forage as needed. One strategy to increase forage production for grazing is to grow annual crops, which can include cereals and brassicas. 

Extending the grazing season with annuals can help reduce production costs. In dry climates ranchers often run short on late summer and fall pasture, since productivity of cool-season perennials is often limited during the heat of summer. 

Kevin Sedivec of North Dakota State University says the crops traditionally used as cover crops in a farming system – including turnips, radishes and other brassicas in combination with cereal crops and warm-season forages – can often supply late summer/fall grazing, into winter. 

He notes these can be planted in early to mid-summer. 

Winter crops

Other options for late fall and winter grazing include winter cereals.

“Winter rye, winter triticale or winter wheat work well in the Dakotas. As we go farther west into Montana and Wyoming, it’s mainly winter wheat. In the Dakotas and Minnesota, we often use winter rye,” he says.

Any of these three winter crops can be planted in late summer as a dual crop, growing enough to be grazed in the fall and grazed again the next spring. 

“We would seed those in early September, and they could be grazed from mid-October through early December, depending on how many animals are on it and how good the stand is. The animals should be taken off to allow regrowth, and it can be grazed again the next spring, prior to the joint stage,” he explains.

Usually the crops regrow enough to turn cattle out on them in May, but Sedivec says producers in South Dakota and Wyoming may be able to turn out as early as mid-April.

Grazing

“Cattle can go out on winter wheat and winter rye stands, grazing until they joint, and then be taken off to allow regrowth for a grain crop or rye hay later in the year. Winter triticale would be grazed in the fall, again in the spring and before putting another crop in, but the wheat and rye could be harvested as a second crop for grain,” Sedivec says. 

He adds, “If the plan is just to graze and then come in with a new crop like soybeans following winter rye, it could be grazed longer in the spring,” he says.

“If we are going to follow winter rye with a warm season crop like soybeans, corn or sunflowers, we can graze it hard, until it is grazed down completely, then drill the next crop into it and terminate the rye crop with the appropriate herbicide,” says Sedivec, noting the future plan is most important. 

Other factors

“It also depends on what we used for herbicides this year, since that will affect what can grow next year in that soil,” Sedivec continues. “Ask an Extension educator or a crop consultant regarding what to use for herbicide this fall and next year.”

Weather also makes difference on how well these crops grow, he says.

With shortages of hay this year, Sedivec says ranchers may be considering options for next year as far as what forages to plant.

“Producers should plan how to manage their grazing lands for next year, looking at what they can do based on what crops they have right now, herbicide carryover, costs, etc.,” he says. 

The costs of planting will also vary, depending on what is being planted and when.

Planting

“The nice thing about the winter cereals is that they are not expensive to plant, especially rye. That could be a good alternative for fall and into the next spring. Rye is almost always an economic option in terms of planting, compared to some cover crops,” says Sedivec.

Winter wheat or winter rye can be drilled in mid-September to have a crop for next year. 

“If we plant earlier, like early September, we might have a little more growth for fall grazing. If our objective is to only graze it this fall and not worry about a crop from it next year, it can be drilled any time,” he notes. “It could be grazed pretty closely, even with snow on it, as long as we don’t graze it too short or if we want some regrowth for spring grazing and less winterkill,” he says.

Late summer and fall seeding works well, as long as there’s moisture. 

“If there’s no moisture don’t waste the money for planting. It helps to have an idea about the weather forecast,” he says.

By October, it would be too late to plant anything for fall and winter pasture, but producers might also be looking at what their options might be for the next spring. 

“We could put in a cool season crop like a rye or any kind of cereal in April, since these are fast-growing plants. This could provide some grazing for May and June. Turnips or radishes could also be planted with the cereal crop early, for spring grazing,” he says. 

Looking ahead

If a producer has just come through a summer and fall when forage production was short, it’s good to start looking at what could be planted early the next year and maybe have a plan for summer annuals as well – to provide a lot of forage and extend fall grazing.

“For spring grazing, I would plant early with a brassica and rye or oats mix. These can produce a lot of bio-mass in a short time. If we can get into our fields in April to plant, depending on where the ranch is located, this would be a great option,” he says. “We can graze that well into June, which would allow us to rest our native pastures and let them recover in the spring.” 

“The biggest thing people need to do is find ways to give pastures time to recover in spring,” Sedivec comments. “An annual cool-season crop planted in April to give some grazing through the month of June could be a great alternative. Otherwise the only option is to keep feeding hay, and that’s an expensive option.”

Heather Smith Thomas is a correspondent for the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Send comments on this article to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

“We have competitive advantages to think about in the Big Horn Basin,” says Caitlin Youngquist, University of Wyoming (UW) Extension educator based in Washakie County. “We have good water. We have a long growing season, which is helpful for a lot of crops, and we have low humidity, which can be an advantage because the crop is alleviated from disease pressure.”

Additionally, the Big Horn Basin is relatively isolated, which can provide advantages for seed crops or any crops that have a risk from disease transfer or cross pollination.

“Those are some of the advantages in this region for alternative crops,” she explains. “Some of the challenges in the same region, however, are that we have mostly alkaline soils.”

Much of the soil in northwest Wyoming has a pH higher than seven, which is higher than neutral. While some crops aptly grow in alkaline soils, others require a more acidic soil.

“We also tend to have a lot of saline soils and water,” she continues. “Beets and barley tolerate those high salt conditions well.” 

Additionally, hot summers and cold winters can be challenges for producers in the area. 

Resources

In one bulletin produced by UW Extension, titled “Alternative Crops for the Big Horn Basin, Wyoming,” Youngquist explains research that developed a model to determine if a particular crop of interest may fit in a specific area or region. 

“For this model, they looked at mean temperatures in May, June, July and August, maximum temperatures, minimum temperatures, days exceeding 90 degrees, growing degree days, 90 percent chance of frost-free period and other parameters that can be used to determine if any crop may fit within the parameters and be productive in this area,” she says.

The bulletin highlights 28 different crops that are suitable for high pH soil and in areas where May, June and July temperature is greater than 40 degrees, with a mean temperature of 65 to 75 degrees. 

Crop options

To highlight a handful of crops that producers may be able to produce, Youngquist cites numerous options.

“Winter wheat or spelt are both good options,” Youngquist explains. “Spelt is a grain, as well as the forage. Most spelt grown in the U.S. is winter spelt, although some spring spelt is grown in Canada.” 

Both crops can be grazed in the fall or spring, then harvested in the summer for grain, resulting in multiple uses for the crop.

“It is also a great cover crop,” she says, “and there is good research about planting it with peas, then grazing it in the fall and summer. We can get two grazings out of it.” 

The grain market for spelt is primarily based in health food, where there is higher demand for organic spelt, according to Youngquist. 

Legumes

Safflower Technologies of Montana buys chickpeas, lentils and maple peas. 

“There are chickpea trials going on in Powell and at the research station in Lingle,” Youngquist continues. “Those are good options.” 

Additionally, those crops are largely marketed into a health food market, which adds potential for producers who may consider producing organically.

“For example, lentils sell for 22 cents a pound. They are almost 90 cents a pound for organic, so farmers get a significant jump in their price point there,” she says. 

Fenugreek is an additional forage legume that can be grown as a forage or medicinal herb. 

“It is 14 to 20 percent protein and yields 2.5 to 3.5 tons per acre,” she says, adding fenugreek has been seen to stimulate milk production in dairy herds.

Another nitrogen producer is Sunn hemp, which can result in 100 units of nitrogen in 60 to 90 days.

“This is a legume that is a fiber, forage or cover crop,” she explains. “There is a lot of Sunn hemp seed going into cover crop mixes or multi-species mixes, so there may be some potential for seed production as the demand for cover crop mixes increases.”

Research trials

A number of variety trials are being conducted at Wyoming’s various Research and Extension Centers, including trials for flax in Powell.

Flax can be grown for seed, oil, food or fiber, meaning many different types of flax are available.

“Flax can be harvested with an alfalfa seed header, meaning we might not need any additional equipment,” she says. “Quinoa is another plant that fits in the health food market, so it is going to be mostly organic, although not exclusively.” 

Quinoa can be grown as a forage or seed.

“Quinoa is primarily grown certified organic, but it can make a high-quality forage, comparable to corn silage or alfalfa, depending on the time of harvest,” Youngquist comments. “This is something else to consider as an alternative forage.” 

In considering alterative forages, Youngquist notes producers should consider all their options – from type of crop to marketing labels like certified organic. 

“When considering alterative crops,” she comments, “look at the cost of production, see if there’s a niche and consider what might grow in the area.”

Youngquist spoke at Fremont County Farm and Ranch Days in Riverton on Feb. 7 and WESTI Ag Days in Worland on Feb. 14. 

Saige Albert is managing editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Send comments on this article to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

According to University of Wyoming Extension Educator Caitlin Youngquist, multiple factors influence soil differences between fields.

“How soil changes is based on how we manage it,” she said. “What about soil differences based on the origin of the soil?”

Youngquist noted that there are inherent differences between soils based on the rocks that were broken down to create it.

“If we think about soil in a simplistic way, it’s just old rocks that have been weathered and broken down over millions of years by bacteria, weather and some chemical processes,” she commented.

However, when looking at a broader picture, she explained that soil is also a living system.

“It’s a system of plants, insects and microorganisms. As farmers, this is particularly where we work. We are managing this living system,” continued Youngquist.

Changes

“We can think about the rocks we’ve standing on as the inherent characteristics of the soil,” said Youngquist. “We can’t change that. It’s like genetics.”

Alternatively, when looking at the living system of soils, Youngquist explained that it is a dynamic system.

“As land managers, we’re working to change this system within the constraints of the inherent characteristics,” she commented.

She noted that land managers cannot change the minerals in the soil from the rocks, but there are other characteristics that they can have a large influence over.

“We can add minerals with fertilizer, but it’s not something we have a lot of control over. We have a lot of control over our soil organic matter and soil compaction as a manager,” Youngquist said.

Goals

After determining what traits and factors a producer is working with, the next step is to determine what their production goals are.

“The next question is, where am I going? What are my goals? Where do I want to go with this?” said Youngquist.

She noted that every producer has goals, needs and limitations, with limitations coming from the inherent characteristics of the soil, such as texture or groundwater levels.

“If we’re going to grow hay, some of our goals might be related to how much we want to produce,” continued Youngquist. “With grazing, it could be related to what time of year I want to be able to graze and how many head I want to be able to graze.”

Once goals are set, producers then need to consider what is removed from the system at harvest.

She commented, “What do I need to replace to keep the system thriving?”

Resources

Youngquist explained that there are several resources available to help producers meet their production goals.

Extension provides multiple resources including bulletins, workshops and resources to help producers get in contact with industry experts and the most recent research.

“When we have information on what we’re growing, where we’re growing it and information from our soil tests, we can use bulletins to see how much fertilizer is recommended to use based on research,” said Youngquist.

Soil testing laboratories can be another excellent resource, she commented.

“They see a lot of soil tests, and they can over the phone walk us through some stuff, particularly if we have something that seems unusual or an unusual challenge we’re dealing with in terms of nutrients,” Youngquist continued.

Youngquist finds it helpful to use multiple recommendations to come up with the best strategy for a field.

“I’ll take the soil lab’s recommendations, bulletins and some other resources, wind them all together to say, based on these different recommendations, this is what we can get for our best guess for this particular crop,” she said.

Above all else, Youngquist recommended that producers learn to identify plant health through visual appraisal.

“The plants never lie,” she concluded. “Learning to identify the plant deficiency symptoms can be a very useful tool for us in managing our fields, and looking at rooting depth, particularly if we’re interesting in improving soil health or soil till and reducing compaction, will be very important.”

Youngquist spoke during the 2017 Fremont County Farm and Ranch Days, held in Riverton in early February.

Emilee Gibb is editor of Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..