Skip to main content

Blue Creek Farm

History

The Blue Creek Research Farm was founded in the early 1960s when farmers in Box Elder County purchased 40 acres of farmland and deeded it to the UAES for research. Farmers and agribusinesses purchased 50 additional acres in 1992. Methods to control snowmold are studied at Blue Creek, as are conservation tillage techniques, soil fertility, grass and alfalfa varieties, and smut-resistant wheat varieties. The farm is also home to nurseries for fall wheat and spring grain.

Research Topics

Research is focused on small grains breeding and other dryland agriculture. Scientists from the USDA-Agricultural Research Service Forage and Range Research Laboratory (housed at USU) also conduct field work at Blue Creek.


Established  


Acres 


Projects  


Researchers  

Research Projects

Breeding and evaluation of sustainable winter barley cultivars for feed and malting

Project Lead: David Hole

As water demands increase, and available irrigation water supplies stay constant or decline in Utah, barley production systems will need to adapt to earlier maturity and to make use of winter precipitation and early spring moisture.Winter barley is poised to allow such a shift, as it can mature earlier and allow growers to focus equipment, labor, and water resources on other crops, such as hay, later in the summer season. Because both environmental stresses and diseases and insects differ markedly between geographical areas, it is important to develop cultivars that perform particularly well in a given production area. In addition, as management practices change to become more sustainable, plant breeding must continually shift emphases to develop adapted material for current and future production systems. Food safety and food nutrition requirements also change with increased knowledge, and plant breeding is responsible for providing cultivars to meet the needs of increasingly more sophisticated consumers and allied industries. Plant breeders are tasked with development of these improved cultivars to meet the agronomic needs of local producers; cereal chemistry and rheology needs of the industries that processes these grains; and safety and nutrition needs of the consumers who purchase and feed their families with them. In addition to the direct research, the value of including undergraduate and graduate students as part of building and maintaining capacity in plant breeding and genetics should not be undervalued. Conventional and genomic breeding of improved cultivars will result in new cultivars released for acceptance by stakeholders including farmers and the feed and malting industries.

Development and testing wheat cultivars and germplasm for changing environments

Project Lead: David Hole

Plant breeding is a long-term research project. Because both biotic and abiotic stresses differ markedly between geographical areas, genotype by environment interactions can be exploited to develop cultivars that perform particularly well in a given production area. In addition, as management practices change to become more sustainable, plant breeding must continually shift emphases to develop adapted material for current and future production systems. Food safety and food nutrition requirements also change with increased knowledge, and plant breeding is responsible for providing cultivars to meet the needs of increasingly more sophisticated consumers and allied industries. Plant breeders are tasked with development of these improved cultivars to meet the agronomic needs of local producers; cereal chemistry and rheology needs of the industries that processes these grains; and safety and nutrition needs of the consumers who purchase and feed their families with them. In addition to the direct research, the value of including undergraduate and graduate students as part of building and maintaining capacity in plant breeding and genetics should not be undervalued. Long range sustainability of U.S. agriculture will be enhanced by providing breeders with both the germplasm and the reliable selection tools to allow incorporation of resistance genes for common bunt and dwarf bunt in adapted cultivars. This project will also incorporate training field-based breeders by integrating undergraduate and graduate students funded by this project into ongoing productive plant breeding programs in Utah. As race changes occur in the disease organisms, identification of new resistance genes in critical. Previous screening of winter wheat accessions in the National Plant Germplasm System has identified a number of extremely resistant lines that contain previously unidentified and un-utilized resistance. We do not know, however, if these lines incorporate new combinations of previously identified genes, or if they contain novel, previously unidentified, genes. It will be vital to characterize novel genes for resistance that are available in the National Small Grains Collection (part of the National Plant Germplasm Collection). It is important to continue screening the National Small Grains Collection for winter wheat accessions to identify novel sources of resistance to both common bunt and dwarf bunt.

Understanding Controls on Soil Microbial Nitrogen Use Efficiency in Agroecosystems

Project Lead: Bonnie Waring

Promoting ecosystem nitrogen (N) retention is important for land managers and farmers, as nitrogen losses (via denitrification or leaching) contaminate surrounding natural systems, and represent an expensive waste of fertilizer. Plant and microbial nitrogen use efficiencies (NUE) play a major role in determining agroecosystem N retention. Although plant NUE has been well studied, very little is known about the NUE of soil microorganisms. The proposed study will be the first to quantify soil microbial NUE in relation to agricultural land use (e.g. fertilizer type and quantity). The results of these experiments will provide basic information about ecological controls on soil N cycling, and directly inform management decisions made by land owners.

Optimizing inputs for forages and field crops in Utah

Project Lead: Earl Creech

In order to remain economically viable, Utah’s agricultural producers are faced with the need to optimize crop inputs to maximize profits. Crop response to management can vary due to climate, geography, soils, pest problems, field history, and other factors; therefore, research to generate management recommendations on crop inputs for Utah farmers and ranchers is most relevant if conducted within the state. Moreover, the dynamic nature of input costs, commodity prices, technology, equipment, production practices, and crop genetics warrants ongoing research to maximize production efficiency and returns. Field experiments will be conducted in fields of Utah growers to generate the information necessary for Utah agricultural producers to make management decisions regarding crop inputs on their operations. Specifically, research experiments will be conducted to 1) characterize the effect of cover crops and compost carryover on wheat yield and quality, and 2) evaluate strategies for integrating legumes into existing grass pastures in Utah. As a result of this project, we expect farmers, crop advisors, and other participants will increase their knowledge and awareness of new corn and alfalfa management tecniques that can improve profitability. We also anticipate that a change in action of some participants will occur as they adopt the techniques and methods they have learned.