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Ag research continues in Sheridan

Written by Rebecca Colnar

Sheridan – The Sheridan Research and Extension Center Field Day, held July 14 at the Wyoming Agricultural Experiment Station (WAES) at Sheridan College, educated agricultural producers on irrigated forage, pollinators, wildlife depredation and even growing grapes.

WAES works with its affiliated Research and Extension (R&E) centers to host field days through the summer months. Attendees to the field days learn about accomplishments and experiments being conducted at the centers and other locations in Wyoming through a combination of field tours, presentations and displays.

The Sheridan Research and Education Center (ShREC) has active research and education programs ongoing at its locations at Wyarno, east of Sheridan and the Adams Ranch immediately south of Sheridan at the University of Wyoming (UW) Watt Agricultural Center on the Sheridan College Campus.

Brian Mealor, new ShREC director, led the group, who piled onto open-air Sheridan trolleys to travel around the research plots. The tour kicked off with classroom presentations followed by the tour, which began with a look at a vineyard. 

Alternative crops

According to researcher Sadanand Dhekney, Wyomingites are looking for alternatives to traditional crops, but with the diverse soil and cold winters, they need to identify region-specific  cultivars. The researchers looked at several varieties, with preliminary results finding that the vines planted in the Sheridan plot had a higher survival rate than other areas of Wyoming.

Frontenac, Marechal Foch and Osceola Muscat performed well in Sheridan.

Blaine Horn discussed forage cultivars suitable for production under irrigation. According to researcher, the best growing grass under irrigation was Oahe wheatgrass.

“We planted bromegrass and legumes,” Horn explained. “What we were trying to find is a grass that would do well for a junior water rights user who may be able to irrigate early in the season but then lose their water in late summer.”

In 2015, they planted the plots on April 20 using a drill in the highly clay-type soil.

“I should have run a pivot right away because then it got dry,” said Horn. “We had a lot of volunteer millet and seed shatter. What we found was that the Oahe intermediate wheatgrass has grown the best. The meadow brome grass did well. However, the two smooth brome grasses did not do as well.  Brome grass matures sooner than pubescent wheatgrass.”

Horn advises to catch grasses/legumes at optimum production, harvest them at different times.

“Once the flowering starts, we’re not going to get any more pounds from that grass. The quality will still be good, though,” he said.

Legume production

A talk on productivity of grass-legume mixtures was presented by Druba Dhakal, filling in for researcher Albert Adjesiwor.

Because Wyoming’s yield of forages is generally below the national average, the researchers looked at some mixes using bird’s foot trefoil and sanfoin. The two grasses not only have high nutritional value, but don’t cause bloat in cattle.

They study was established in 2013 using a sole stand of alfalfa, sanfoin and bird’s foot trefoil, along with three stands of meadow brome grass and five ratios of grass-legume mixtures.

“Economically, we found the legume monocultures were the most profitable even after only one year, while the grass monocultures were not, even with nitrogen application,” noted Dhakal. “However, the 30 percent alfalfa, 70 percent meadow brome grass was profitable. From the study we also showed the bird’s foot trefoil can be a good alternative legume in areas that aren’t suitable for alfalfa.”

Wildlife depredation

The field tour was also updated on the status of a wildlife depredation project presented by Jeremiah Vardiman. This long-term study began three years ago in an irrigated alfalfa field known for its heavy population of antelope. 

“When the field was established, it was estimated that about 250 to 300 antelope grazed in this field,” noted Vardiman.

The investigators set up 14 cages or plots to an irrigated field in early spring to assess the damage caused by the antelope.

“Before every cutting we’d compare the area used by the antelope to the protected grass in the cages. What we found is the animals did not make a significant impact to the field,” Vardiman explained.

Vardiman indicated that the antelope numbers had declined over the years the study was being conducted.

“We wanted see what the economic threshold was. How much of a forage crop, in this case alfalfa, can a producer lose to wildlife before he is economically affected?” Vardiman said. “If that threshold is reached, then the landowner can work with the Wyoming Game and Fish Department to reduce numbers or grow a forage that is less palatable to the antelope, deer, whatever animal is causing the depredation.”

Keith Klement, director of agriculture at Sheridan College, explained the study involved a number of Sheridan College students each year.

“We had them counting antelope and white tail deer in the field and helping in the lab,” noted Klement. “It is a great collaboration between Sheridan College and the research center to have students able to assist in research projects.”

Poster projects

Following the tour, attendees were able to view the posters produced by the students addressing different research projects. These ranged from the wildlife impact study to dryland cool season grasses and how positive/negative words affect producers’ perspectives.

Kentz Willis, University Extension educator on food and nutrition, talked about how food grown at Sheridan College was used for the dinner that evening which included a delicious basil dressing for the spinach salad, a vegetable lasagna, beef and home-made mint ice cream. The Sheridan County Cattlewomen prepared and served the meal.

Presentations on planting for pollinators followed the dinner. Look for a write-up on the presentations in a later edition of the Roundup.

Rebecca Colnar 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..