For the second time in 26 years, dryland wheat farmers and related businesses in northern Utah and southern Idaho have dug into their own pockets to support agricultural research.
The latest show of support resulted in $25,000 to purchase 50 acres for the Blue Creek Dryland Farm, a research facility of the Utah Agricultural Experiment Station.The fund-raising campaign duplicated a similar effort in 1964 when farmers bought land for the farm.
"If it weren't for the experimental farm, I can honestly say that I would not have stayed in business," said Deloris Stokes of Tremonton, who headed the fund-raising campaign. "The release of smut-resistant wheat increased yields from 10 to 50 bushels. We finally had a bin of wheat to sell. I'm 100 percent sold on what's been done and what's going to be accomplished. We needed more land for research."
Many donors had contributed money 26 years before - and said they were happy to help again, Stokes added.
The additional land, which more than doubles the size of the research farm, represents a vote of confidence in dryland farming in the region and in the value of agricultural research, said H. Paul Rasmussen, director of the Utah Agricultural Experiment Station.
Farmers purchased the original 40-acre site to support research to combat smut, a fungal disease that threatened to wipe out wheat production in the area. Disease-resistant varieties developed at the research farm subsequently solved the problem.
Since then, dryland wheat production has flourished as farmers applied the results of other research concerning tillage practices, fertility and seed improvement.
Stokes was assisted by Darvel Garn of Fielding and Ross Rudd of Garland. More than 100 farmers, businesses and farm organizations contributed money to buy the land.
Garn said research at the Blue Creek Dryland Farm is responsible for "wheat yields that were unheard of 40 years ago. These yields have kept us in the farming business.
"Smut was so bad that wheat production dropped by 50 or 60 percent. Dust from fungus spores was so bad that during harvest combines were black and fields looked like they were on fire," he added. "And snowmold control has let us raise fall wheat, which usually produces double the yield of spring wheat."