Introduction

The establishment of a new agricultural research and extension center is a rare event, full of opportunities for success or failure. The University of Wyoming Agricultural Experiment Station purchased land in 2003 to launch a new research and extension center to replace older facilities at Torrington and Archer, Wyoming. The Sustainable Agriculture Research and Extension Center (SAREC), which consists of approximately 149 ha of irrigated and 617 ha of dryland farmland, 775 ha of pasture, and 24 ha of farmstead, is located west of the town of Lingle in Goshen County in southeast Wyoming and along the North Platte River (Figure 20.1). SAREC is a field research and extension station for investigating various aspects of crop and livestock production including integrated crop-livestock systems (Claypool et al., 2004a).

With the creation of the new research and extension center, the College of Agriculture at the University of Wyoming was presented with a unique opportunity to develop baseline soils and yield maps before research plots are established (Belden et al., 2005). Understanding and documenting the status of the soil resource before initiating research offers a unique opportunity to quantify changes in soil quality. Knowledge of soil resource variability also aids researchers with the spatial placement of their plots, particularly if soil variance is to be kept at a minimum.

Two advances in agricultural sensing and mapping technology—on-the-go mapping of yield and apparent soil electrical conductivity (ECa)—provided the Agricultural Experiment Station with an exciting set of tools with which to plan and manage SAREC. After the land was purchased and in cooperation with USDA-ARS Water Management Research unit in Fort Collins, Colorado, the Agriculture Experiment Station allocated resources to obtain important baseline data: digital imagery, yield, ECa, and elevation maps, and grid soil sampling and analysis. As discussed by many in this book, geospatial ECa mapping provides the simplest and most rapid assessment of soil

FIGURE 20.1 Aerial image of the irrigated farmland at SAREC.

variability. Spatial data will help future management and design of research projects. Existing ECa and yield data will be analyzed to identify possible problem areas. The integration of this baseline information means that much more will be known about the soils at SAREC before research begins than during the establishment of any previous Wyoming research and extension center. In this case study, we present a summary of the baseline data and briefly discuss their uses.

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