Annual Field Day event draws diverse crowd

Posted 7/25/19

People got a look at the work being done at the University of Wyoming’s Powell Research and Extension Center (PREC) during its annual field day on Thursday.

The event was packed with …

This item is available in full to subscribers.

Please log in to continue

Log in

Annual Field Day event draws diverse crowd


People got a look at the work being done at the University of Wyoming’s Powell Research and Extension Center (PREC) during its annual field day on Thursday.

The event was packed with exhibits, demonstrations, games, tours and displays, all to inform the community on what PREC does and provide a bit of agritainment free to the community.

The information provided in one afternoon was still just a glimpse of the research carried out at the facility. With 50 fields spread out over 175 acres, it would take weeks to cover it all.

Jim Heitholt, PREC director, said this year’s event drew interest from a younger group of participants, as well as a lot more people with no farming background than usual.

“I’m really impressed with the diversity we’re seeing today,” he said.

Dixie Crowe, Ph.D. student and lab manager, held a poster session to describe one of the projects the center is undertaking. Crowe, along with Jay Norton and Heitholt, is looking into improved crop rotations for edible dry beans.

The objective of the research is to evaluate the effects of minimum tillage and direct bean harvest in a three-year crop rotation of sugar beet, bean, and barley. It aims to better understand the potential for including edible dry beans in expanding rotations, and the pros and cons of minimum tillage and direct harvest.

“I’m really excited about it,” Crowe said after enthusiastically describing the project in front of a poster display summarizing the research.

Perhaps a lot of people wouldn’t find all this quite so fascinating, but PREC tries to help farmers with a little more knowledge about best practices. And with agriculture being such an integral part of the local economy, the benefits filter down to the rest of the region.

Farmers are so busy producing crops and trying to squeeze a profit out of thin margins, it’s rarely feasible for them to conduct experiments like this. They take labor, land, and equipment, sometimes over a few years. So, the researchers at PREC fill this role.

Since much of the facility’s research involves irrigation, pivot irrigation companies set up booths and provided demonstrations on the precision technologies that are being used in modern agriculture.

Joe Werner with the Powell-based Agri Industries demonstrated how the pivots greatly lower labor costs. Using soil data, farmers can program the pivots to apply water in very specific amounts over specific periods of time to get water where it’s needed and not waste water where it’s not. Using a mobile phone app, farmers can monitor the process and even make adjustments from anywhere in the world.

Sam George was one of the tour guides taking groups of people around to the acres of projects spread out across the fields north of Powell. The experiments involve field grass, barley, corn, dry beans, sugar beets and what are called first grains.

First grains were some of the earliest crops cultivated. They fell out of favor when wheat production took prominence, mainly because wheat has significantly higher yields.

PREC has fields of three types of the grains: einkorn, spelt and emmer. The grains have become a new organic food trend with significant market growth in the past few years. Since farmers can sell them at a premium, they have potential to become an alternative crop.

“This is something people are really excited about,” George said from the front of a tractor-pulled tour wagon, as it rolled past fields of various types of ancient grains.

Back at the poster displays, graduate student Raksha Thapa, from Nepal, showed off charts on the project’s results over the past few months. Next to her stood a table with samples of bread made from spelt baked by Claire’s French Bakery of Cody, which was provided some of the grains from last year’s projects.

The tour also went through fields used for production. George explained that center staff sometimes produce on the fields previously used for a research project. By producing a standard crop on a field, they can clear any residuals in the soil from the research project.

George also showed projects supported by companies, such as Briess Industries and Simplot.

After the tours, games, displays, demonstrations, and drawings for door prizes, the event concluded with a free meal from Soup R Pita.