New agricultural research and extension center begins operations

The College of Agriculture, Biotechnology, and Natural Resources’ new Great Basin Research and Extension Center in Eureka County has begun operations as part of a new initiative for rural Nevada. It will address related issues of sustainable management of dryland rangeland grazing, livestock, crop production in water-limited environments, and alternative water and irrigation strategies for crop production.

The College, one of the University’s founding land-grant colleges, operates the business on a 644-acre ranch in Diamond Valley near the town of Eureka, as well as several grazing permits on Bureau lands. of Land Management in the Diamond and Fish Creek Mountains. around the Diamond Valley.

“This operation will address real-world issues through research and extension – providing useful knowledge to ranchers and farmers in Nevada,” said College Dean Bill Payne. “It’s also a showcase for Nevada, because much of the world looks like this, and the knowledge we generate here will be useful in all arid areas of the world.”

Drylands are defined as areas in which lack of moisture limits crop and/or pasture production for part of the year, and are typically found in arid, semi-arid, and dry sub-humid regions of the world. . Drylands make up approximately 41% of the earth’s land surface, including most of Nevada.

Payne added that the start of operations of the Center coincides with the launch within the College of the new International Center for Sustainable Dryland Agriculture. He noted that 2.5 billion people, or 30% of the world’s population, including most of the world’s poor, live in drylands and face several common challenges, including desertification, salinization, l soil nutrient depletion, poor water quality, invasive species, declining biodiversity and soil erosion. The Eureka Center and the International Center were created to address these issues nationally and internationally.

The Eureka Center has found its new home thanks to the generous gift of the Ruby Hills Mining Company, LLC, which donates the ranch to the University.

“We are thrilled to be part of bringing a world-class research and extension center to Eureka,” said Jack McMahon, Ruby Hill representative. “Ruby Hill Mining Company, LLC is a committed local business partner and we support the efforts of our ranchers and farmers. This center will enable the University to conduct relevant research and outreach activities to address future challenges in local agriculture and meet global needs that will bring long-term benefits to the community.

“We truly appreciate the support and generosity of Ruby Hills Mining Company, LLC, for our new center and the community,” Payne said. “It makes this important project possible, and we are proud to have associated them with the Centre.”

Payne said there are three main goals at the Center: sheep genetics and management, rangeland restoration and improvement, and water-efficient cropping systems for water conservation and production.

“It fits exactly with the objectives of the Experiment Station – to provide knowledge and meet the needs of stakeholders,” said Chris Pritsos, the College’s associate dean for research and director of the Experiment Station, who oversees the operation. “Herders and farmers have unique challenges and issues that research faculty can help them address and solve.”

Annual Sheep Auction

At the center of the operation is the world famous Rafter 7 flock of sheep, which was purchased by the University in July. One of the University’s first major projects in its operation of the Center held the annual Rafter 7 sheep auction on September 12, which attracted buyers from around the world. Of the approximately 1,800 head of sheep in the herd, 230 sheep were for sale.

The sheep are both purebred Merino and Rambouillet/Merino crosses that were originally developed about 30 years ago under the direction of Hudson Glimp, Professor Emeritus of Animal Biotechnology at the University, to improve the National and State of Nevada Sheep Industry. The effort was generously supported by the Weigand Foundation. Subsequently, the herd was sold and moved from the Walker Lake area to the Eureka area. Sheep are extremely well suited to pasture production and the production of fine wool despite the harsh climate. Genetically, the herd has made major contributions to the western United States and international sheep industries.

“Right now we are busy establishing the ranch and the center,” Pritsos said. “We have already built a new lambing facility. It will take us a year for the operation to fully start. At present we will operate as a production flock, selling rams, lambs and wool.

But the Center does not just sell sheep. It will also help fund more research, more programming through Extension, and other projects that will adapt to the needs of the community.

The Center will eventually include an administration, teaching and laboratory facility; housing for shepherds and workers; domestic/stock well and water system refurbished; modernized irrigation facilities; and a redesign and reconfiguration of the sheep pens. The ranch has three 120-acre pivot sprinklers producing alfalfa hay and other forage crops, a cattle feedlot, and dry land crested wheat pasture.

At an elevation of 6,481 feet in central Nevada, the center is about 250 miles from the university’s main campus in Reno and about 100 miles southeast of the Gund Research Ranch, also operated by the experimental station. .

“One of our goals with this project over the past two years has been to take us out of the Reno-centric perspective and expand our presence across the state,” Pritsos said.

Payne agreed, “It is important to understand that the Experimental Station has a statewide mandate, similar to Extension. It’s been decades since the College took another active step with a facility of this size outside of the Reno-Sparks area, but that’s what land grants are meant to do, work elsewhere – around the State. We are happy about that, but we also have sober glasses, because there are a lot of unknowns and obstacles to overcome. We have high hopes, but we are getting a little ahead.

The College, Experiment Station, and Extension Offices have been present throughout the state for over 100 years, including statewide research, seven field stations, and extension offices in each Nevada county.

Longtime educator gets extra assignment

Leading the operation of the Great Basin Center is Gary McCuin, the center’s acting director and longtime educator for the University of Eureka County Extension. With his new assignment, he will split his time between the two positions.

“I am excited and intrigued by the potential this center has to help us fulfill the mission of this land-grant institution and the needs of our growers,” he said.

Extension’s mission is to discover, develop, disseminate, preserve and use knowledge to enhance the social, economic and environmental well-being of people.

“I see the Center as a means to achieve the mission of Extension through applied research and agriculture, rangeland, and animal production operations, and to convey the knowledge gained through these efforts to Nevada stakeholders, of the West and the world,” McCuin said.

McCuin is a cowboy and a training and trade course manager. He’s also pretty local, having grown up and worked on ranches a hundred miles south of Eureka. He has been working with Pritsos and Payne to get this project off the ground for two years.

“This position will greatly expand my ability and that of academic researchers to deal with the real-world, real-time challenges and opportunities facing growers,” he said. “If we stay focused on addressing the issues, problems and challenges of our stakeholders, then we can fulfill the missions of a land-grant and extension university.”

“Although this year is an extremely difficult time for agriculture due to extreme economic and environmental anomalies, it also presents great opportunities to become innovative in production, marketing and education for the benefit of our stakeholders. If it benefits our producers, then meeting the challenges will be worth it. »

Lana T. Arthur