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Ag research - SAREC Field Day features variety of livestock, crops research

Written by Gayle Smith

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..