UW student’s entry wins agricultural economic group’s outstanding thesis award

Photograph of Sachintha Mendis
Sachintha Mendis

A former master’s student in the Department of Agricultural and Applied Economics at the University of Wyoming has received the prestigious Outstanding Master’s Thesis award from the Agricultural and Applied Economics Association (AAEA).

Sachintha (Sah-CHIN-thah) Mendis (Men-dis) completed her master’s degree in agricultural and applied economics at UW in 2017 and is pursuing her doctorate in agricultural and resource economics at Colorado State University, said Ben Rashford, head of the department in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources.

The AAEA is the largest and most prestigious professional association for agricultural and applied economics, said Rashford.

“The AAEA each year selects a maximum of three theses from nominations representing the best graduate student research in the country,” he said.

Mendis’ thesis was “Estimating Demand for Food Quantity and Quality in China.”

“Her investigation of the structure of food demand in China contributes to our understanding of the demand for food quality and has implications for marketing U.S. food products in China’s ever expanding consumer market,” Rashford said.

Mendis is the second UW student selected for the award in the last four years.  Anna Scofield received the honor in 2015.

Mendis is originally from Sri Lanka, where she completed a bachelor’s degree in agribusiness and a master of philosophy in agricultural economics.

Her UW thesis committee members were chair assistant professor Vardges (VARD-ges) Hovhannisyan(Hov-HAH-nis-yahn) and associate professors Chris Bastian and Alexandre Skiba.

Slater producer recognized for service to Wyoming agriculture

Gregor Goertz listens to Jim Heitholt, head of the Department of Plant Sciences, following the Gamma Sigma Delta awards program Saturday on the UW campus. He and and his wife, Cindy, received the organization’s Distinguished Service to Agriculture Award.

Statewide leadership and an emphasis on what’s of benefit to Wyoming agriculture prompted recognition of a Slater producer by the Wyoming chapter of an international honor society of agriculture.

Gregor Goertz and his wife, Cindy, received the Distinguished Service to Agriculture Award from Gamma Sigma Delta during its awards program Saturday, April 21, at the University of Wyoming.

UW Extension beef cattle specialist Steve Paisley noted the couple’s establishment of an organic dryland farming operation, their direct marketing natural beef company and organizing and developing local wind energy opportunities.

“Gregor is not only a successful businessman and agriculturalist, he recognizes the importance of providing input and guidance for agricultural programs on a statewide level,” said Paisley.

Goertz served from 2009-2017 as executive director of the Wyoming Farm Service Agency and was a member of the advisory board to the James C. Hageman Sustainable Agriculture Research and Extension Center near Lingle, in addition to numerous committees and associations.

He grew up on the family farm and ranch near Slater and attended Western Wyoming College. He returned to the family farm and enlarged the operation to 24,000 acres with 5,000 acres of farmland. The couple established the farmland as 100 percent certified organic selling primarily dryland wheat but also raising organic oats and hay for their cowherd.

The couple in 2004 developed Wyoming Pure LLC, a direct marketing beef company.

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UW researchers help citizen group setting vision for senior-friendly Laramie

Portrait of Bernard Steinman
Bernard Steinman

Baby boomers are booming, according to U.S. Census data, and a citizen coalition boosted by efforts from University of Wyoming researchers wants Laramie residents’ opinions about what is lacking in the city for seniors.

Meetings to collect input begin this week.

Laramie’s 50-59 age group is growing three times faster than the general population, said Bernard Steinman, a faculty member in the Department of Family and Consumer Sciences and research director at the Wyoming Center on Aging (WyCOA) at UW.

The Age-Friendly Initiative wants to create a future Laramie that meets the needs of the burgeoning older population.

“I’ve never told anybody about this and not have them be enthusiastic about it,” he said. “It really gets a good response.”

Laramie Mayor Andi Summerville signed a proclamation last week supporting efforts by the group to encourage and develop paths toward a city that provides for a healthy and fulfilling senior population.

The group will collect resident opinions during its first meeting 6 p.m. Thursday, April 26, at the Feeding Laramie Valley Building, 968 N. 9th St. Other meetings will follow in May, said Steinman.

“The visioning meetings are going to be very important,” said Steinman. “We want to get the voice of residents, the people who are experiencing these issues now, to find out what their priorities are.”

Group members include representatives from the WyCOA Center, Eppson Center for Seniors and Foster Grandparents of the Rockies. The effort is through AARP’s Age-Friendly Community Network.

The growing older population is a national phenomenon and also true in Laramie, said Steinman.

2010 Census data shows a general population growth of 13.3 percent for Laramie, but the 50-59 population increased at 33.3 percent, and the age 60 and over at more than 20 percent. Newer data is not yet available. Figures for each category have shifted by now, said Steinman, meaning the age 60-plus is probably now showing the 33-percent growth.

‘We really do need to start preparing the environment so people can stay in Laramie and not have to move,” he said.

Steinman, an assistant professor in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources and gerontologist by training, helped with a similar initiative in Boston before moving to Laramie.

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New extension bulletin describes best methods for forage kochia establishment

Picture of forage kochia
Forage kochia

Forage kochia should be planted in early spring for the highest densities, according to research by the University of Wyoming Extension.

“Forage Kochia Establishment: Effects of Planting Time and Grass Mixtures,” B-1318, describes results from field studies in 2014-2015 by extension forage specialist Anowar Islam and graduate student Parmeshwor Aryal.

Forage kochia is a highly nutritious semi-shrub that can be used for forage or reclaiming degraded areas. Their tests at the James C. Hageman Sustainable Agriculture Research and Extension Center near Lingle included seeding with six perennial cool-season grass species.

Establishment was highly dependent upon spring moisture. They found overall density was higher in April regardless of monoculture planting or with grass mixtures.

The bulletin is available for free download by going to www.uwyo.edu/uwe and clicking on Find a Publication. Enter the title or bulletin number in the search field. The bulletin is available in pdf, HTML and ePub formats.

For more information, contact Islam at 307-766-4151 or at mislam@uwyo.edu.

UW team that revolutionized grasshopper control is recognized

A man holds big grasshopper, nother takes phone picture, third looks on.
Alexandre Latchininsky (center) and Scott Schell (right) have taught an entomology short course at the University of Wyoming for 13 years. Ken Black (left), an airman at Francis E. Warren Air Force Base, is one of hundreds of professionals who have completed the 3-day course. The Eastern lubber grasshopper Schell holds is not native to Western rangelands.

A University of Wyoming Extension team that changed how grasshopper outbreaks are treated in North America and beyond has received the 2018 Western Extension Directors Association Award of Excellence for its efforts.

Prior to 2010, large-scale applications of broad-spectrum pesticide neurotoxins were common. The University of Wyoming Grasshopper Integrated Pest Management (IPM) Team of entomologists developed an approach in which lower-risk insect growth regulators are applied to rangeland in alternating swaths. This method affects only immature insects (pest grasshopper nymphs) and is benign to honey bees, butterflies and other pollinators.

Since the late 1990s, the UW team has introduced the program in 10 states and 11 countries through demonstrations, hands-on train-the-trainer workshops, and UW Extension and academic publications. Now it is the preferred option for grasshopper management in the West.

In 2010, a major grasshopper outbreak was averted in Wyoming when the reduced agent and area treatments (RAATs) were applied to 6 million acres. The cost was $1.25 per acre and resulted in $14 million savings for the state’s agriculturists.

The extension award recognizes Grasshopper IPM Team leader Alexandre Latchininsky, professor and UW Extension entomologist; and members Scott Schell, assistant extension entomologist; John Connett, IPM specialist; Cindy Legg, Cooperative Agricultural Pest Survey (CAPS) database manager; Douglas Smith, Wyoming CAPS coordinator; Lee Noel, former graduate student; and team founder Jeffrey Lockwood, now professor of natural sciences and humanities in the University of Wyoming Department of Philosophy.

The Western Extension Directors Association Awards of Excellence recognize outstanding extension education that addresses contemporary issues in one or more of the 13 Western states and Pacific Island U.S. Territories.

The 2018 award will be presented at the Western Region Joint Summer Meeting in Tamuning, Guam, July 9-12, 2018.

For more information, contact Latchininsky at 307-766-2298 or latchini@uwyo.edu.