SAREC showcases new projects at field day

LINGLE – The Sustainable Agriculture Research and Extension Center (SAREC) hosted its field day on Wednesday, Aug. 25, for the public to see their new projects and facilities. 

Research scientist at SAREC, Brian Lee, welcomed the guests and previewed the schedule of events. 

One of the newest projects is a uniquely built geodesic dome. Jeff Edwards, who built SAREC’s geodesic dome and has made many other hoop houses in the past, said this one was difficult to make. 

“We’ve got a 16-foot center height here and it is really difficult to actually build it,” Edwards said. 

The dome was funded by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) to research how to extend the growing season. According to Edwards, SAREC’s geodesic dome is a passive greenhouse.

“Normally we have to have additional electrical inputs for heating and cooling,” Edwards said.  

SAREC’s geodesic dome only has vents on the walls and ceilings for regulation. 

“They’re temperature controlled. As soon as it hits about 70 degrees they start to open up,” Edwards said. 

The temperature inside of the dome is noticeably cooler than outside, and Edwards said in the future they will figure out the exact change and its effect on the crops. 

The geodesic dome allows them to start planting in March and harvest all the way to November. Edwards said the dome will be used for crop demonstration and forage work, but they will have to wait until next year because they were late in getting the structure up.   

“In order to have it a little green, and pretty, and not just [soil] we put flowers in,” Edwards said.   

SAREC’s previous structure was destroyed during a windstorm in 2019. Edwards said the new one is sturdier and hopefully it won’t happen again. 

SAREC also has a new orchard where Brain Sebade is growing pears, plums peaches, and cherries. Sebade informed guests about sun scolding and how they use white paint to alleviate some of the harsh heat on the plants. 

Sebade also said SAREC is different from most places in the state because their sandy ground is better for what they are planting than clay. 

Kevin Madden, the Farm Manager at SAREC, guided two tours on the “people hauler” around parts of the facility to show some of the big harvesting projects they are working on. The tour included five stops with speakers talking about different tests taking place on the crops. 

Carrie Eberle, the Assistant Professor of Agronomy and Cropping Systems, told the guests a about SAREC’s ongoing project with sunn hemp. The plant is a legume and not associated with industrial hemp. Eberle said it is a tropical plant, so the testing is annual until it gets cold and gets cut down. 

The field is marked out with signs stating when each section was planted. Eberle said the main goal is to see if it can be harvested twice or only once at the end of the season. 

“Even though our regrowth is really good it may not be worth doing that early cutting on it and we may be better off just letting it grow later,” Eberle said. 

The crop could be chopped up or just left for grazing. Madden said the cows seem to already like it because a few have slipped under the electric fence and started eating the crop. 

Elsewhere on the facility, vendors came to showcase their own products including Judith Bartman who makes homemade desserts and dry rubs with her sister, and Aria Butterfield who makes her own scrunchies and jewelry.

Students from the University of Wyoming participated in a poster contest. The posters featured scientific findings from some of the research at the facility, and guests voted for the best one.  

The day was capped off with a dinner presentation by Katelyn MuCullock, who is the Director and Senior Economist of the Livestock Marketing Information Center (LMIC) in Lakewood, Colorado. MuCullock covers cattle, dairy, hay, and corn for the LMIC. 

MuCullock looked at how the current drought has impacted the beef market but did not focus on COVID. 

“Not that it won’t be an impact of some kind, it just won’t be what it was last year,” MuCullock said. 

According to MuCullock’s research, beef and high prices continue to increase which could lower the demand. However, MuCullock also mentioned stimulus money helping customers to continue to buy beef. 

MuCullock talked about beef exports as Japan and South Korea are still buying a lot from the U.S. China has also recently been importing high amounts of American beef. 

“China has had ferocious demand for U.S. beef,” MuCullock said. 

This is also a new market for the U.S. according to MuCullock, as it is becoming a bigger part of their diet. 

MuCullock ended the presentation saying all meat prices are going up. 

“It’s not just fed products that are moving really well,” MuCullock said.   

After the presentation, dinner was served to end the day. Brian Lee said Field Day 2021 went well. 

“We had a lot of awesome researchers out here and a great keynote speaker,” Lee said. “I’m just glad people were able to come out and join us.” 

Lee said SAREC’s next activities include more feed studies and the annual food project with elementary students to teach them where their food come from.

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