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Riverton — “The alfalfa weevil is the number one pest in Wyoming for alfalfa,” said University of Wyoming assistant entomologist Scott Schell during the Fremont County Farm and Ranch days, held in Riverton in early February.
Schell recommends using an integrated pest management (IPM) system to control weevil populations, adding the goal isn’t to eradicate the species but to it bring down to an economical level.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) an IPM is a pest management approach based on a four-tiered practice that includes setting action thresholds, monitoring and identifying pests, prevention and control. It is designed to be an effective and environmentally friendly approach based on pest life cycle information and a pest’s interaction with the environment. This information is used in combination with pest control methods to manage pests in the most economical way possible with the fewest hazards to people, property and environment.
The alfalfa weevil winters as an adult, then lay eggs in alfalfa stems the following spring. Upon hatching, larvae go through metamorphosis until they reach adulthood. Each phase of its life is known as an instar and the weevil goes through four instars during life.
Each female lays between 400 and 1,000 eggs. “You can have good control one year, and low female populations can still have a huge effect on the following year,” explained Schell.
Eggs are approximately one-fiftieth of an inch long when layed and there five to 50 eggs per hole in an alfalfa stem. Schell adds that humans can’t find eggs, but there have been some insect predators introduced that can find and go after them during that stage.        
Body length is one to two millimeters when larvae hatch. From larvae they mature into a pupa, then a young adult. As young adults they feed for a while then leave the field to estivate, which is the summer equivalent of hibernation.
Development and hatching are based on the number of days of a specific temperature or a degree-day. “The weevil is 48 degrees and alfalfa is 42 degrees. It is a smart adaptation of the weevil to wait for alfalfa to be up and growing before they hatch,” commented Schell.
Degree-days vary between years but according to Schell the most important degree-day for scouting is number 425. “At this point you should scout your field to determine if you need to treat or not.”
“Lots of people use the growth of alfalfa to determine when to scout. Degree-days will tell you when eggs are hatching, but either method is effective,” added Schell.
Scouting while weevils are still immature limits crop loss and provides additional information when making management decisions. Weevils in their first and second instars will be located in the buds and their damage won’t be visible unless buds are pealed open. After weevils enter the third isntar, skeletonized leaves and other visible crop damage becomes apparent.
Schell recommends the “bucket method” over net sampling. “Everyone has a bucket and it works just as well. Net sampling is more difficult and you have to wait until they’re older.”
To utilize the bucket method producers should collect 10 stems at five random locations within a field and put them in a bucket. Schell suggests hitting fastest growing areas such as south facing slopes first.
“You’re essentially looking for something pretty small and a hand lens may be necessary. Take apart the buds you collected and look for larvae in the earlier stages. Count all the stems that show tip feeding damage and divide that number by 50 (the number of stems originally collected) to determine the percentage of tip feeding. The standard is that if you have 40 percent damage or higher you want to take some management action, be it a chemical treatment or preparation for early harvest,” explained Schell.
If a crop is within seven to 10 days of harvest the cost of treatment probably wont be worth it, but early harvest is still an option. Schell noted that producers should always figure control costs to ensure the added benefits of control are greater than the added costs.
Producers can expect around a one-ton per acre loss when six weevil larvae are present per stem. Health and vigor of the plant can be compromised and nutritional content of hay will also be affected since the weevils eat the highest quality part of the alfalfa leaf.
According to Schell an appropriate combination of management techniques can help, but working with neighbors is also important. “If you can get a really good kill you might get a multi-year benefit if you’re fairly isolated. But, if you have weevils moving in from other fields you will probably have to treat every year.”
“In Wyoming early harvest is probably the best strategy for control, and it can also be used for blister beetle control, which horse hay buyers will like. You can address it and say, ‘I know what they look like and am aware of them as a I harvest hay.’ We don’t sell as much horse hay as some places, but it is a highly lucrative market.”
Knowing what to look for and how to determine potential loss provides producers with the more information when making management decisions regarding the alfalfa weevil and other crop pests. Increased pest awareness can also reduce crop loss and increase hay marketability.
Heather Hamilton is 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.





A study at the University of Wyoming (UW) aims to evaluate goji berry, Lycium barbarum, for its potential as an alternative high-value crop for Wyoming and explore the option of organic production for the crop.

“There is great interest in alternative crops to diversify Wyoming agriculture, especially for high-value crops,” states UW Extension Northwest Area Agriculture and Horticulture Educator Jeremiah Vardiman.

Goji berry is a deciduous shrub that grows 12 feet tall naturally but, with pruning, is only three to six feet in height. The shrub produces an orange-red fruit the size of a grape tomato.

Goji berry is also called wolfberry, boxthorn and matrimony vine and is a part of the tomato family, Vardiman says.

Study and market

The UW study is being conducted in Powell and Sheridan to evaluate the plant’s performance at both locations. In both places, days required for flowering and fruiting, growing season length and yield per plant will be estimated, according to Vardiman.

Goji berry propagation using hardwood and softwood cuttings will also be evaluated.

“With a Zone 3A hardiness rating, early maturity and the ability to break dormancy early, goji berry seems to be compatible with Wyoming’s harsh climate,” Vardiman states.

Typically found as a powder, juice and dried fruit, the product is very valuable. However, at the commercial level, most of the world’s goji berry is produced in China, Vardiman continues.

“The current market for goji berry is in health foods, and goji berry can command a price as high as $40 in the U.S. market,” Vardiman comments.

Advantages for farmers

Along with the push to create local food hubs and the movement for local produce, this study could provide Wyoming farmers with another product to market and sell to diversify.

In 2017, an amendment to the Wyoming Food Freedom Act (WFFA) was passed that would benefit individuals who want to market their products directly to consumers. Individuals who want to sell their products in higher value markets will also receive benefits from WFFA, according to Vardiman.

“The project will benefit current growers of fruits and vegetables under field and protected conditions, several homeowners and also prospective growers who are considering diversifying their agricultural operations,” says Vardiman.

Approximately, 75 to 100 growers are expected to be beneficiaries, he continues, with the potential for further growth as the product becomes more established.

Goji berry hurdles

Pest pressures and labor are the two main hurdles of goji berry production, Vardiman says. He adds that fruit damage has already been observed and reasonably determined to be caused by insect and birds.

“Pests, such as insects and birds, could potentially impact the yield from the plants, as pests consume the berries and lower their quality,” Vardiman states.

Labor is also a hurdle for goji berry production because weed management must done by hand or hoeing.

Vardiman mentions that harvesting is also done by hand and can be labor intensive.

“If an operation had a half an acre or more of goji berries to manage, the cost of the labor required to cultivate and harvest could be very difficult,” he says.

Further research on growing goji berry in Wyoming may be conducted after initial feasibility of the alternative crop is determined.

Heather Loraas is assistant 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..

In November 2017, CoBank Knowledge Exchange released a new report, titled “Lab-grown Cultured Meat – A Long Road to Market Acceptance.”

Trevor Amen, animal protein economist and report author, said, “Technological advancements in food manufacturing are allowing researchers to explore alternative protein products.”

Alternative proteins include products from plant sources, insects and lab-grown cultured meats.

“The growth products and future success for this category lies squarely with growing protein demand globally, as opposed to taking market share from traditional livestock and poultry production,” Amen continued.

He further noted, while growth in the sector is likely in the next decade, current sales of meat substitutes are around $740 million annually in the U.S., with growth projected to hit $863 million by 2021.

“However, these figures are dwarfed by the $49 billion market for total fresh meat and poultry sales in the U.S.,” Amen said.

Further, he added the closest substitute to traditional animal protein is lab-grown cultured meat, but commercial viability is three to five years from today, with a timeline dependent on the ability to align cost and quality with current offerings. Additional, consumer acceptance of scientifically engineered products will also be a factor in the viability and success of alternative protein markets, and there are also technological and regulatory hurdles.

“Regardless of the specific technology that prevails in developing cultured meat, it is unlikely to have a marked effect on traditional animal protein demand at least through the next decade,” Amen concluded.

Visit cobank.com/Knowledge-Exchange/Centers-of-Excellence/Animal-Protein.aspx to view the full report.

Lander – The second session in the Popo Agie Conservation District’s hay and pasture renovation workshop series, held on Nov. 7, focused on non-bloat legumes, alternative fall grazing and second crops. 

Roger Hybner, research agronomist at the Bridger Plant Materials Center in Montana, spoke to attendees about options for irrigated land. 

Planting options

“One of the better non-bloat legumes is Delaney or Shoshone sainfoin,” Hybner said. “It is drought tolerant, though also a deer and elk magnet. Therefore, it is a good component in seed mixtures for wildlife.”

“Irrigating sainfoin like alfalfa will drown it out in a heartbeat,” he continued. “We put hay as the first crop and the sainfoin comes in later. This works better as the deer have moved into the hills and don’t hit it as hard.”

Birdsfoot trefoil is not as productive or palatable as sainfoin but can survive several weeks of flood irrigation. It reseeds itself, performs well in poorly drained soils and compares to alfalfa in growth and nitrate levels. 

“Birdsfoot trefoil may require two years for establishment,” Hybner said, “and it needs a month of regrowth for over-wintering reserves. It has a 10 to 15 percent lower yield than alfalfa when grazed. If a producer has never had sainfoin or Birdsfoot trefoil, I highly recommend that they have it inoculated.”

Milkvetch

Hybner said Cicer milkvetch has 40 percent more leaf and stem ratio than alfalfa and is comparable to it in nutrition value. Cicer milkvetch also drys rapidly when cut for baling and its stands generally improve with age. 

“Cicer milkvetch is not overly affected by over grazing,” Hybner explained, “as it is a vigorous sod-forming rhizome. Under irrigation it can spread, especially with wildlife eating the seeds and leaving them all over the farm.”

“Plant it only with creeping foxtail, meadow brome or orchard grass mixes, as everything else will choke it out,” he cautioned. “It does better under grazing, as it has slow spring growth and can only stand two cuttings a year.”

Other grasses

Orchard grass is mainly used in hay mixtures or irrigated pasture. 

“The orchard grass chokes out the alfalfa after a few years,” Hybner explained, “because it forms seeds before the alfalfa. I wish they would breed it to be later. It is still a good grass though.”

Hybner recommends meadow brome over smooth brome.

“I don’t like smooth brome at all. I call it the silent invader,” Hybner said. “It worked great for roadside reclamation in the 1950s when it was introduced into the U.S. Now it’s everywhere, and it isn’t the best forage. Other grasses have much better production and quality of feed than smooth brome.” 

Alternative fall grazing

“Tall, crested and Siberian wheatgrasses are good early in the spring before producers take their cattle to the forest,” Hybner said. “If they’re looking for fall grazing on wheatgrass, I would go for Siberian.”

“Russian wildrye is the best grass for fall grazing, as it holds its protein and is invigorated by disturbance,” he continued. “We literally disked it two different directions in one field and had a great seed head growth the next year.”

Russian wildrye stands can last 10 to 15 years, it is a good dryland grass and will out compete cheatgrass. Russian wildrye produces one to 1.5 tons more per acre than crested wheatgrass.

“It is possible to suppress foxtail barley and cheatgrass using forage currently available,” Hybner said. “This is much cheaper and better for soil than spending money on chemicals. I really like using livestock, different grasses and then coming in with herbicides for integrated pest control.”

“The best weed control measures occur before planting. Producers can’t plant in a field that has a weed seed bank and expect the grass seedlings to compete. It works nicely to do a crop rotation for one to three years prior,” he continued.

Seed mixes

“The Cooper mix is excellent,” Hybner continued. “Mow the first cutting, swath it and then graze with stock. It normally gets five to six tons an acre under a pivot.” 

The Cooper seed mix was developed by Jack Cooper, ranch manager, and Scott Cooper, USDA Agriculture Research Service forage scientist, over 30 years ago for use on the Cooper Hereford Ranch in Willow Creek, Mont. 

The Cooper mix consists of one pound of orchard grass, four pounds of meadow brome, one-quarter pound of spreading alfalfa, 13 pounds of sainfoin and three pounds Birdsfoot trefoil per acre. 

Forage kochia

Forage kochia is highly nutritious to cattle and is most commonly used for standing fall and winter forage as an alternative to harvested hay. It can choke out invasive species, such as cheatgrass.

“Producers need to be aware of the extremely small seed, its like tobacco,” Hybner said. “The best way to plant it is to drop it on the snow in late spring and let the moisture to take it in. It is a perennial shrub, fire resistant and is for dryland pasture. 

“It looks like Russian thistle without the prickles,” he added. “Its winter protein content runs from eight to 14 percent and takes three years to fully establish itself. I would recommend producers use it strictly for winter pasture, as you wouldn’t want it everywhere on the ranch.” 

Diversity

Diversity in cover crops and seed mixes is integral for soil health.

“The reason we have so many weeds in our fields is because we’re planting monoculture,” Hybner said. “The soil wants to have a buffet instead of a single course. Native range has a variety of grasses and forbes. The monocultures and tillage cause the soil ratios to be off-balance.”

“Land owners can correct this over time by planting diverse crops. To invigorate an alfalfa stand drill a cover crop right into the alfalfa, creating another year or so of production,” Hybner commented. “This reinvigorates all the soil organisms that have been sitting dormant. Applying fertilizer is just a Band-Aid, it doesn’t address the soil health issue.”

The fourth and final session of the hay and pasture renovation workshop, focusing on planting and renovation techniques, will be held at the Lander Library at 1 p.m. on Nov. 21. Melissa Hemken 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..

Riverton – “The first generation of genetically modified (GM) crops were focused on farmers, making it easier for farmers to produce more by controlling weeds better, losing less of the crop to insect damage, etc.,” said Carl Coburn, a plant sciences graduate student at the University of Wyoming.

In Riverton on Feb. 12 at Fremont County Farm and Ranch Days, Coburn discussed common misconceptions about genetically modified organisms (GMOs).

Sugarbeets

“Roundup Ready sugarbeets were introduced in 2008,” he stated.

Sugarbeet yield rates have increased steadily since the 1950s, with a much sharper increase after the introduction of the Roundup Ready variety.

“It would not be completely true to say that this yield increase is only due to genetic modification, but it would also be really naïve to think that it has nothing to do with it,” commented Coburn.

Before Roundup Ready sugarbeets were introduced, farmers used multiple applications of pesticides in their fields each year to control unwanted weeds.

“When we can spray Roundup on the beets and they are genetically modified to resist this chemical, we are reducing injury to the crop, and we are getting better weed control and less competition,” he explained.

Cotton

Bt cotton is also a GMO designed to deter pests.

“Bt toxin is produced by a naturally occurring bacteria and it is very specific to killing certain pests,” Coburn noted.

By growing cotton that already contains the toxin, farmers do not have to spray as much insecticide over their fields.

“Bt has been used for a very long time, and it is actually an organically approved pesticide. Organic growers can spray Bt on their plants,” he added.

Selecting crops

Throughout history, humans have selected crops for preferable traits. GMOs, according to Coburn, are a focused realization of this practice.

“We are talking about something that is very random, human selection over tens of thousands of years versus what we are doing in science today with genetic modification. It’s very specific, and it’s very precise,” he commented.

None of the food crops we eat today look like their ancestor plants. 

Brassica oleracea, for example, is the parent plant of multiple vegetables that we eat today.

“To get cabbage, people selected for the terminal buds. To get kale they selected for leaves. For broccoli they selected for stems and flowers, and for cauliflower they selected for the flower clusters,” he explained.

Looking forward

In the future, Coburn expects to see more genetic modification geared toward consumers, such as the innate potato, which has been approved by the USDA.

“When we cook potatoes at a high temperature, they start forming acrylamide, which is a known carcinogen. The JR Simplot Company developed innate potatoes that produce a lot less acrylamide when they are cooked at high temperatures,” he noted.

Coburn also mentioned blight resistant trees that have been developed through genetic modification.

“Chestnut trees used to be the dominant tree in the forest all up and down the East Coast,” he said, discussing tree blight that was introduced to the area. “By the 1950s, we had a virtual elimination of chestnut trees.”

By creating a variety of tree that contained a gene from wheat, a resistant tree has been created that could be used to repopulate the native species.

GM controversy

“Blanket statements for or against GMOs are over-simplistic. Each GMO is different, and they all go through a testing process,” he stated.

Coburn believes that scientists need to improve communication to the public, so that positive aspects of genetic engineering are included in public conversation.

“When we are talking about growing food, we need as many tools as we can get,” he noted.

Responsible science, he said, is being hindered by activists who are against technology, no matter what that technology is.

“Whatever the application of genetic modification is, they are against it no matter what. I think that is very dangerous, and it could actually be costing people their lives,” he said.

Consumer support

Studies show that many scientists support the use of GMO technology, but consumers are not as accepting.

“Thirty-seven percent of U.S. adults think it is safe to eat GMOs, whereas 88 percent of scientists say that it is safe to eat them,” he said.

Although he admitted the technology is not a silver-bullet solution, Coburn expressed concern about scare tactics and sensationalism fueling public misconception.

“A lot of people that may be a little bit misinformed have some very strong opinions. I like this quote by Mark Twain,” he said. “‘I can travel half way around the world while the truth is still putting on its shoes.’”

Natasha Wheeler is editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be contacted at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..