Farmers can reduce extreme weather impacts, say extension educators

Field of yellow flowers with blue skies and clouds
Brassicas, such as this flowering rapeseed (brassica napus), can be used as cover crops. Shutterstock photo: Daniel Prudek

Farmers can’t change the weather, but two management practices can help buffer the effects of heavy rains, drought and other weather extremes, according to new guides from a team of extension educators at University of Wyoming, University of Nebraska and Montana State University.

“Minimizing Extreme Weather Impacts: Cover Crops 101” and “Using No-Till to Minimize Extreme Weather Impacts” are available free from UW Extension at bit.ly/UWEpubs.

Planting cover crops in rotation with primary agricultural crops can support soil quality and fertility, increase water infiltration and reduces erosion. A cover crop can be a single species crop or a mixed-species crop, such as legumes, grasses and brassicas (mustard family).

Other benefits may include reducing soil compaction, suppressing weeds, improving soil microorganism populations and providing habitat and food sources for birds, mammals and beneficial insects.

“Cover crops should be customized to the individual operation and objectives,” said Jerimiah Vardiman, lead author from UW Extension. He noted the potential exists for no benefits or even negative impacts, such as reduction in soil nitrogen, if cover crops are not managed correctly.

No-till farming is not new but is not widely used, said Tyler Williams of University of Nebraska Extension.

With a no-till approach, crops are grown with minimal soil disturbance, and the soil is kept covered with crop residue to conserve soil and water.

Advantages are soil moisture conservation, erosion control, reduced fuel and labor costs and benefits to soil structure and health. Disadvantages are increased dependence on herbicides, no incorporation of residue, manure or fertilizer and slow soil warming on poorly drained soils.

For more information, contact Vardiman at 307-754-8836 or jvardima@uwyo.edu.

These short introductions to field management systems are among the many guides, free courses and videos from UW Extension that help extend skills in cropping, small acreage management, irrigation, wildlife habitat and more. YouTube video series from UW Extension include “Barnyards and Backyards,” “From the Ground Up” and “Exploring the Nature of Wyoming.”

Community Collaborative Rain, Hail and Snow Network (CoCoRaHS) turns 20

Chris Carparelli makes sure the rain gauge is level at the Beaverhead Conservation District office in Dillon, Montana. UW Photo: David Keto

A deadly rainstorm on the west side of Fort Collins, Colorado, led to an international network of citizen weather observers you can join.

CoCoRaHS officially began on June 17, 1998, with a few observers along Colorado’s Front Range. Today, more than 20,000 observers are active in all 50 states, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Canada and the Bahamas.

Volunteers include gardeners, rural landowners, teachers, students, youth in 4-H and after-school programs, and other volunteers. It takes about five minutes a day to measure and report precipitation using low-cost measurement tools and the interactive CoCoRaHS website or phone application.

The CoCoRaHS network provides valuable data for natural resource management, education and research. Meteorologists, flood plain managers, insurance adjusters, farmers, ranchers and recreationists use CoCoRaHS data to make decisions such as when to plan a trip or when to issue severe storm warnings.

To learn more, including how to volunteer, see the new fact sheet from University of Wyoming Extension at bit.ly/weathervolunteer and visit the CoCoRaHS website at www.cocorahs.org.

What has agriculture done for Wyoming lately?

Cows and calves on green rangeland with mountains in background
Of gross revenue from agriculture in 2014, 66 percent came from marketing livestock. UW Photo: Chavawn Kelley, Sims Cattle Company, McFadden, Wyoming

Wyoming’s farms and ranches account for approximately 30.4 million acres of land and $22 billion in investments in land, buildings, machinery and equipment.

Families, individuals, partnerships and family-held corporations account for 96 percent of the approximately 11,700 farms and ranches in the state.

Wyoming agricultural production generated gross income of $2.1 billion in 2014.

Grocery stores, feed stores, veterinarians, bulk fuel dealers, health care providers and restaurants benefit from the $2.1 billion in secondary impacts resulting from local spending by Wyoming agriculture.

These are some of the insights presented in “The Economic Importance of Wyoming Agricultural Production,” a new four-page report from University of Wyoming Extension and the UW Department of Agricultural and Applied Economics.

The report is available free at bit.ly/UWEpubs.

Economists David “Tex” Taylor, Thomas Foulke and Roger Coupal, authors of the report, estimate the total economic impact of the agricultural industry is double the gross income from agricultural production, for a total contribution of $4.2 billion to the Wyoming economy.

“Agriculture plays an important role by bringing in outside revenue through export sales, and it provides economic diversity,” said Taylor.

Wyoming’s 2.4 million acres of cropland, 1.3 million cattle and calves, 355,000 sheep and lambs, 85,000 hogs and pigs, 72,000 horses, 27,000 chickens, 9,000 goats and 3 million pounds of honey also produce jobs.

Taylor, Foulke and Coupal report the $4.2 billion of economic activity associated with agriculture supported an estimated 33,000 jobs directly and in support industries, with total labor income of nearly a billion dollars.

From a government standpoint, Coupal found agriculture generates an estimated $77.5 million in tax revenue for Wyoming state and local governments yet costs only $0.54 in local government services for every $1.00 of revenue generated.

Open space from private agricultural lands provides landscapes, lifestyles, wildlife habitat, and other ecosystem services that have economic value to both residents and visitors.

A survey sponsored by the Wyoming Stock Growers Association, the Wyoming Stock Growers Land Trust, The Nature Conservancy and the Ruckelshaus Institute at the University of Wyoming found that nearly 80 percent of Wyoming residents feel they benefit from the presence of farms and ranches in Wyoming.

For more information, contact Taylor at 307-766-5682 or ttaylor@uwyo.edu.

“The Economic Importance of Wyoming Agricultural Production” is among the many free guides, courses and videos from UW Extension that help extend skills in ranching, irrigation, small acreage management, succession, legacy and estate planning and more. YouTube video series from UW Extension include “Barnyards and Backyards,” “From the Ground Up” and “Exploring the Nature of Wyoming.”

Wyoming may not have income tax, but there’s still lots to know

The Tax Facts logo
Wyoming Tax Facts gives the facts at a glance with just a click.

Ever wonder how sales and property taxes are determined and why they differ from county to county? A new course by the University of Wyoming Extension community development team walks curious citizens through the basics.

“Wyoming Tax Facts” covers who gets taxed, how we get taxed, and where the money goes. It’s free at http://bit.ly/Wyotaxfacts.

“This course is for all ages and could be a great middle school or high school classroom activity,” says Michelle Pierce, community development educator in Campbell County.

The self-paced course provides short, easy-to-read introductions plus interactive questions, activities and videos.

For more information, contact Pierce at 307-682-7281 or mrp10@ccgov.net.

“Wyoming Tax Facts” is among the many free courses, videos and guides from UW Extension that help extend skills in estate planning, lawn and garden design and maintenance, small acreage management, critter care, and more. See bit.ly/UWEpubs. YouTube video series from UW Extension include “Barnyards and Backyards,” “From the Ground Up” and “Exploring the Nature of Wyoming.”

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.