SAREC continues research despite COVID-19 challenges

LINGLE – The James C. Hageman Sustainable Agriculture Research and Extension Center (SAREC) has continued to operate despite dealing with some changes due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

SAREC is one of four agriculture research centers within the University of Wyoming system. The facility, just south of Lingle, studies predominantly crops, livestock and agriculture systems in reference to the common agriculture production processes in Goshen County.

“The focus of this station is looking at not only crop production but how do we integrate that with livestock production.” Steve Paisley, director of UW-SAREC, said.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, things at SAREC haven’t been the same this past year. Only around 85% of research projects have been completed, researchers from Laramie have had to travel back and forth between the two locations, and cooperative research projects with outside companies have been postponed.

“We typically have somewhere around 70 to 75 research projects here throughout the course of the year, and those are a wide variety of research projects,” Paisley said. “We have a research feedlot here, so we conduct feeding trials. We also do feed evaluations for local producers on their bulls and study soil. A wide variety of things happen here on an annual basis.”

In a year without COVID-19, researchers would be able to travel together from Laramie and stay on the grounds of SAREC in the housing facilities. This growing season, researchers were not able to do that because of restrictions put in place by the university.

When traveling to and from Laramie, university researchers were restricted to just one person per vehicle and they were no longer allowed to stay overnight. While research still continued over the summer, eliminating the overnight stays limited the amount of data researchers would normally collect.

“Some of the data collection we would normally do is very intensive data collection where you’re shoulder to shoulder taking a lot of data for long periods of time,” Paisley said. “We’ve basically had to refine that a little bit and make it safe for everyone participating.”

While some of the cooperative research projects with outside companies have been postponed, collaborative work with students and staff at Eastern Wyoming College (EWC) has been able to continue throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. Including internship programs and summertime help at the facility.

“We were a little bit limited this year by who could come on to the station,” Paisley said. “But, we fully plan on continuing that relationship with EWC.”

With the coronavirus vaccine starting to be distributed and positive case numbers continuing to go down in Goshen county, Paisley is optimistic that things will kind of go back to normal for the upcoming growing season.

“Currently right now we’ve got several projects going on. We have a large-scale feeding study going on in our feedlot right now,” Paisley said. “We’re optimistic I guess; we’re planning for a full season this coming year.”

Last growing season, SAREC wasn’t able to do its traditional five to six Field Day events for people in the community, but there are plans in place to bring those back.

Paisley said if things aren’t back to normal there’s been talks of having Field Days where people would remain in their vehicles and use a type of FM transmitter to listen to a presentation as they drove by the different crops and scenarios.

“The real benefit I think to these field days is being able to come out and look at the different crops, and look at the different scenarios in person,” Paisley said. “I just think you get a better picture of what’s going on and what some of the challenges are and what some of the opportunities are with the research going on here.”


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