Showing 1-17 of 17 results


Project Highlight: High Tunnels Extend Local Food Production 

In 2010, Idaho’s farmers, researchers and educators launched a collaborative effort to achieve the goal of having 20 percent of the state’s food produced locally by 2020. At the same time, a survey of local food vendors revealed that the single largest roadblock to making this goal a reality is Idaho’s short growing season. 

This prompted the University of Idaho’s Stephen Love to organize a team of horticulture specialists to expand farmers’ use of high tunnels in the state. Funded by a SARE grant, the team collaborated with three experienced high tunnel growers in different parts of the state to evaluate high tunnel designs and the profitability of growing various crops in them. 

The experience at the three farms gave the team important information to share with growers around the state. On one farm, eggplants grown inside the tunnels were superior economically to ones grown outside, but for cucumbers the results were mixed. On another farm, there was a clear advantage to growing tomatoes, garlic and peppers in high tunnels. The third farm showed that medicinal crops otherwise unsuited to Idaho’s climate can be grown in high tunnels. It also evaluated structures specially designed by engineering students to withstand harsh winter conditions. 

For more information on this project, see, and search for project number OW13-043

Northern Mariana Islands

Project Highlight: Improve dragon fruit production in the Northern Marianas Island through hands-on student education 

Before World War II, almost 40,000 acres were farmed in Saipan. That has dropped to just a few thousand acres, and most food is imported.

Additionally, a super typhoon hit the island – the most powerful storm to hit the Marianas Islands ever. Families near the Koberville Elementary School were especially hard hit, with many students living in tents or shelters and without power.

Local farmers believe that dragon fruit is easy to sell and is in strong demand. This project added dragon fruit production to the Koberville school farm to enhance the quality of science and business management education; increase student income that could be used for educational activities; and provide information with the community who can also choose to be part-time or full-time farmers. The students took home or sold the dragon fruit they grew.

Despite challenges faced due to COVID-19, the students were still able to successfully harvest 290 pounds of dragon fruit. Through learning how to use marketing skills to advertise their produce for sale, the students sold the fruit for $3.50/pound. From this project research, they learned that contained potted trellis as a production method was a much more effective way of growing dragon fruit than when grown in the ground.

For more information on this project, see, and search for project number FW19-345

Federated States of Micronesia

Project Highlight: Training and Outreach for Extension Professionals in Sustainable Capture-based Cage Farming and Hatchery Rearing Methods, of Siganids (Rabbitfishes)

Sustainable, capture-based aquaculture and hatchery rearing methods of Rabbitfish hold promise not only for fisheries management and coral reef conservation, but also for rural aquaculture livelihoods and nutrition. Thirteen species of Rabbitfish can be found in Micronesia, some with traits making them suitable for aquaculture. Those desirable traits include fast growth, schooling behavior, non-aggressive behavior, tolerance of changing temperatures and salinity, tolerance of poor water quality, and good feed conversion. 

Understanding this potential for sustainable development, Simon Ellis of Marine Environmental Research Institute of Pohnpei (MERIP) designed a Professional Development Program project aimed toward expanding Rabbitfish aquaculture in the Pacific Islands. The highly collaborative project shared information and resources with agriculture/aquaculture professionals, extension agents, private sector aquaculture entrepreneurs, and sustainable development NGOs in the Micronesia region. The project included a four-day training at MERIP, a study tour for three personnel to Hawaii to train in marine fish hatchery techniques, and an easy to read pictorial manual on raising Rabbitfish. 

Ellis is excited about an unexpected outcome of the project. 

“The workshop led to a very positive collaboration with the University of Hawaii College of Tropical Agriculture and Hawaii Sea Grant.”  

For more information on this project, see, and search for project number EW18-006


Project Highlight: Sheet Mulch Using Cardboard and NFTs 

Weeds grow at a very fast pace in Guam. Hand weeding, herbicides, and bush cutting (commercial high powered gas trimmers) are common methods to suppress weeds. However, bush cutters can damage crops and be costly and hand weeding takes a lot of labor.

In this project, farmer Glen Takai proposed testing sheet mulch and nitrogen fixing trees (NFTs) as a solution.  Sheet mulching is a layered method of mulching. Typical sheet mulching methods consists of initially laying single or multiple layers of cardboard over a targeted area. Cardboard layers can be topped with shredded/chipped organic waste material. Cardboard is an abundant resource on this remote island due to high imports, and it creates much waste into the landfill.  The use of cardboard and NFTs as sheet mulch to manage weeds could also improve soil quality through adding organic matter. 

The project has demonstrated significant differences in labor cost savings using sheet mulch compared to not using sheet mulch. Yield data shows that plants using sheet mulch produced significantly higher than plants not mulched. The common use of herbicides was completely eliminated. Lastly, the project promotes the idea of reduce, reuse, and recycle.  

For more information on this project, see, and search for project number FW19-348

American Samoa

Project Highlight: Agricultural productivity of Kratky's non-circulating hydroponics method in cropping specialty vegetables for limited resource growers in Manu'a

Growing vegetables hydroponically, such as bok choy or lettuce, can improve access to fresh produce in remote communities dependent on imported food. Additionally, the quality of locally grown produce can be higher than imported produce that can wilt during shipping.

A Western SARE funded project in American Samoa researched and quantified benefits of a non-circulating hydroponics system for limited-resource growers. Later demonstrations to farmers, village groups and government agencies, as well as a companion Teachers Hydroponics Resource Kit, documented a modern method of farming – while raising awareness of healthy lifestyles, developments in sustainable agriculture, and food security.

The project, led by Toni Leano of Maun'a Leta Creative farm, found the benefits to be:

• Crop yields higher than using conventional growing methods
• Better protection from pests
• Protection from extreme weather, such as heavy rain
• Ability to supply and monitor required nutrients easily
• Easy to adopt system for limited resource growers
• Provide access for local communities to fresh nutritious food

For more information on this project, see, and search for project number FW19-352.


Project Highlight: Growing and Marketing Ancient Grains in Wyoming 

Markets for ancient grains such as spelt, emmer, and einkhorn are growing due to their nutritional qualities and well-liked flavor. In addition, they are reported to require lower water and nutrient inputs than modern varieties. Caitlin Youngquist, Extension Educator at the University of Wyoming, considered that conducting research and working with farmers on these grains could help meet some of Wyoming’s agricultural challenges. According to Youngquist, challenges include low soil fertility and quality, saline and alkaline soils, arid conditions, high crop evapotranspiration demands, and isolation from markets.

Youngquist and her partners studied the nitrogen and water demands of the three grains; evaluated crop performance in various growing regions of the state, quantified costs and benefits associated with growing ancient grains in the state; assessed impacts of growing conditions on grain quality; and worked to develop local markets for cooking and baking. The research was conducted at three University of Wyoming research stations in addition to five on-farm trials. The team hosted numerous presentations, baking workshops, Facebook Live events, and field days. They sent product samples to six food bloggers. Several bulletins and fact sheets were developed for the public from this project.

For more information on this project, see, and search for project number OW19-340


Project Highlight: Sustainable Crop-Livestock Integration for the System Health in the Dryland Inland Pacific Northwest

In north-central Washington, along the Canadian border, dryland wheat production has been the dominate production system for a century using a wheat-fallow rotation. Some wheat producers use direct-seed tillage to improve soil health, but that can lead to increased pesticide and herbicide use. Producers are interested in economically sustainable strategies for reducing pesticide use and further improving soil health. Leslie Michel, Washington Department of Agriculture wanted to experiment with a more biologically intensive and sustainable management system, integrating cover crops, and livestock to improve soil health, suppress weeds and reduce pesticide use.

She worked with five producers to integrate cover crops and cattle onto their fields before their wheat or other grain cash crops were grown. The results were encouraging but mixed. Most soil health parameters didn’t change significantly, and soil moisture was significantly lower in the grazed cover-cropped areas than the control plots. Despite that, plant-stand establishment and plant height in the following cash crop was the same and yields were similar. The cows and calves grazed on the cover-cropped plots did well. Since the trials, farmers continue to experiment with cover crops and grazing.

For more information on these projects, see, and search for project number OW17-051.


Project Highlight: Better Onions, Fewer Inputs

Onions are a high-value crop, but high fertilizer rates and aggressive use of pesticides to suppress weeds, diseases and insects threaten the sustainability of onion production. In Utah, growers and researchers are working to show how changes in management practices can allow farmers to maintain profitable yields while lowering their use of inputs. 

In 2013 a SARE-funded team led by Utah State University’s Diane Alston studied the effect of certain changes on onion yields, in particular fertilization rates and crop rotations. They were following the lead of a small group of onion producers in the state who were finding they could reduce their use of pesticides by lowering their use of fertilizers and still achieve good yields. 

The team pursued multiple objectives and developed a body of information that is helping Utah’s producers adopt more sustainable practices. They surveyed nearly 60 farms to better understand production system predictors of pests and yield; conducted field experiments that showed reducing fertilizer rates could reduce pest densities; and created an interactive production modeling tool. 

In an assessment of producers conducted near the end of the project, 67 percent said the information they learned would help them diversify their operation, and 80 percent felt it would help them reduce their use of off-farm inputs. 

For more information on this project, see, and search for project number SW13-034


Project Highlight: Insect Pathogens Control Clover Pest 

Red clover seed is produced commercially in western Oregon and Washington, and one of its major pests is the clover root borer. The clover root borer develops underground in the roots of red clover and controlling it has proven to be very difficult. Growers once used toxic organochlorine insecticides to battle the borer, but they have been banned from use. Since then, growers have seen a return of the root borer and typically manage it by rotating fields every two years. 

With SARE funding, Oregon State University graduate student Anis Lestari studied whether insect pathogens, in particular naturally occurring fungi, have potential as biocontrol agents for controlling the root borer. Lestari collected clover root borers from four local Willamette Valley farms and isolated and identified pathogens associated with adults and larvae. She compared their virulence against the pest with commercially available microbial products and found that entomopathogenic fungi (a fungus that can act as a parasite) have the potential for use as a biological control of the clover root borer in western Oregon red clover fields. 

More research and validation are needed before official recommendations can be made, but Lestari’s promising results show that a sustainable method for controlling the clover root borer is possible. 

For more information on this project, see, and search for project number GW15-018

New Mexico

Project Highlight: Hill-Climbing Cows May Benefit Ranchers

Most would say that cows don’t go up steep slopes, climb hills or travel far from water, but some just take off for the hills. As grazers, cattle provide ecological benefits to natural areas and help control invasive weeds, but overgrazing can damage riparian areas and can affect downstream water quality. A possible solution? Hill-climbing cattle, which could increase ranchers’ stocking rates as much as 30 percent and improve the productivity of rangeland in the western United States. 

New Mexico State University Range Science Professor Derek Bailey and his team of scientists across the West used SARE funding to look at the genetics of behavior—specifically to identify the genes linked to hill climbing—to develop an inexpensive screening test that allows ranchers to select stock with a genetic disposition to wander and climb. By tagging cattle on ranches with GPS collars, tracking their every move and drawing blood from the hill-climbers to identify genetic commonalities, Bailey’s team collected and analyzed enough data to believe that an affordable screening test is possible and that the hill-climbing trait does not come with significant genetic downsides. More hill-climbing cows would allow ranchers across the West to use harder-to-reach areas for grazing and to thus better manage their rangeland. 

For more information on these projects, see, and search for project number SW15-015


Project Highlight: Gaining a Better Understanding of Ag Complexities on Reservations 

In the United States, more than one in three farms benefits from a range of direct payments by the federal government, according to USDA statistics. But when it comes to farms operated by American Indians, that figure plummets to nearly one in 10. 

Missing out on these programs is one glaring example of how USDA professionals have long struggled to serve agricultural producers on American Indian reservations. And it is one reason why University of Nevada Cooperative Extension Educators Loretta Singletary and Staci Emm used a SARE grant to develop a broad-based curriculum that helps USDA service providers in four western states understand the unique needs and complexities of agriculture on reservations. 

Reception to the 178-page teaching guide, called People of the Land, has been so positive that USDA agencies and state departments of agriculture in Idaho, Nevada, Oregon and Washington have begun adopting it, and its authors have had to print a second run. To develop the curriculum, Emm and Singletary started by assessing the agricultural needs of American Indians on the 10 largest reservations in their four-state region, and by speaking with the agricultural professionals who serve them. Their work also earned them the 2011 National Extension Diversity Award. 

For more information on this project, see, and search for project number EW11-006


Project Highlight: Improving the Benefits of Applied Nitrogen

Broadcast applications of urea are a common management practice for large-acreage, no-till, dryland winter wheat producers in Montana. But when urea is applied to the soil surface, a significant amount of nitrogen can be lost when it converts to ammonia gas and enters the atmosphere in a process known as volatilization. Farmers face economic losses due to reduced yield or crop quality from inadequate nitrogen fertility, and ammonia emissions contribute to environmental pollution and nitrogen enrichment of natural ecosystems. 

With SARE funding to address the problem, Montana State soil scientist Richard Engel conducted on-farm trials over four seasons to identify soil and environmental conditions under which urea applications were most susceptible to ammonia loss, and to identify management practices to reduce those losses. Based on the findings, Engel’s team recommends against surface-applying fertilizer to frozen or wet ground, particularly during the over-winter period. Applying it during the spring following thaw resulted in lower ammonia volatilization loss. By following the team’s recommendations to fertilize in the spring and incorporate the fertilizer into the soil when possible, a majority of Montana’s wheat growers are reducing air pollution and saving about $5 million a year through reduced fertilizer loss and increased yields. 

For more information on this project, see, and search for project number SW10-050


Project Highlight: Pest Reduction on Agricultural Lands due to Hawaiian Short-eared Owls

If you can encourage a threatened native species, help control non-native pests, benefit the state’s farmers, and preserve a culturally important icon, you’ve hit an ecological grand slam. That’s exactly what the University of Hawaii’s Melissa Price is trying to do with the islands’ pueo owls. The native pueo have an important place in the island’s spiritual life and are listed as threatened on Oahu. Exact numbers are hard to come by. Getting a better idea of the population and distribution of pueo was one of the objectives of Price’s project. In fact, the owls are so hard to count, some people told Price her team would be lucky to find any pueo at all. However, based on sightings and surveys, Price has documented the birds nest in wetlands, at higher elevations, and in native forests under ferns. 

Hawaii also has barn owls, which were introduced to the island ecosystem in the 1950s, but barn owls prey on both native and non-native species. Price’s research documented the seasonal use of agricultural lands by pueo and developed recommendations for producers on how to conserve or create pueo habitat to get their pest-management benefits.  Due to increased knowledge about pueo, producers are now helping to achieve a “win-win-win” for the native Pueo, for Hawai‘i conservation, and for economic benefits to agriculture.

For more information on these projects, see, and search for project number OW18-017.


Project Highlight: Dryland Cropping Intensification Shows Benefits

In the Great Plains region of Colorado, a scarce supply of water is the chief limiting factor in dryland cropping yields. This concern over limited water availability prompts many farmers in the area to adopt a winter wheat-fallow rotation, yet this approach worsens soil productivity over the long term. 

Intensifying production and using no-till could actually improve yields and profitability by building up soil health and improving moisture retention. Using a SARE grant, Colorado State University graduate student Steven Rosenzweig set out to both quantify the benefits of reducing fallow frequency and understand the barriers to adoption. He compared different dryland rotation intensities and found that reducing fallow improved soil health, which ultimately allowed farmers to improve grain production with a similar amount of fertilizer. 

He also conducted in-depth interviews with 30 farmers, and identified risk, profitability and crop insurance policy as top perceived barriers to reducing fallow frequency. He also identified strategies for helping farmers overcome the barriers, such as changing the way agronomic researchers approach their work to be more inclusive of long-term viewpoints and profitability. The identified benefits, barriers and strategies for change were widely disseminated, including a website, blog and an upcoming film. 

For more information on this project, see, and search for project number GW16-020


Project Highlight: Potter Valley Tribe’s Native Mushroom Cultivation from Waste Byproduct Substrate for Food Sovereignty

The Potter Valley Tribe in Ft. Bragg, California, began a small operation prior to their SARE project growing various mushrooms with the objectives of food sovereignty, sustainable agriculture, income, and education. Food sovereignty for Native Americans acts as a resurgence of culture, bolstering health, economic development, and native nationhood. The Tribe notes that mushrooms have long been an important feature in Northern Californian diets but are rarely cultivated on Tribal lands.

This Western SARE project experimented with growing on spent coffee grounds, hardwood sawdust from sawmills, and other less frequently utilized local ‘waste’ byproducts such as hemp production. The Tribe aimed to develop their own methodology for production rather than purchasing spawn from other growers.  This would increase food sovereignty and diversify the Tribe’s revenue.

Their outreach and education brought in over 40 new participants in the project, including elders and youth, representing eight different tribes. They came together to continue educating tribal youth in mushroom cultivation, cooking, and gathering. The Potter Valley Tribe also created five instructional videos and Mushroom Manual with step-by-step instructions, as well as developed a mushroom cultivation lab.

Three additional tribes will begin their own mushroom operations after becoming inspired by the success of the Potter Valley Tribe project.

For more information on this project, see, and search for project number RGR20-010


Project Highlight: Collaborative Training for Southwest Grassland Restoration under Environmental Uncertainty

Early settlers’ descriptions of southeast Arizona told of uninterrupted grassland stretching from one mountain range to another.

That’s changed. Today much of that land has been invaded by mesquite and other woody shrubs and the ecological services provided by the grassland – including water recharge into the underground aquifers – has been diminished.

One reason for the change has been fire – or more specifically the lack of it. Once viewed as natural to the landscape as rain, total fire suppression became standard practice in the early 1900s throughout the West. Without frequent fires to control their growth, the woody shrubs spread across desert southwest grasslands.

But as the importance of preserving the grasslands became more apparent, university researchers, conservationists, ranchers, government agencies and others began looking for ways to preserve these important landscapes, even in the face to today’s climate uncertainty.

Western SARE helped the effort by funding an important professional development project to bring all those experts and other interested people together for three day-long workshops looking at the history of the Southwest grasslands and management methods and options for controlling brush and woody species.

One thing that came out of the workshops was a Brush Management Matrix – a decision-support tool for ranchers and land managers to consult when considering brush-management projects. To extend the reach of the project, all of the presentations were recorded and posted on the web, and a series of six videos were produced.

For more information on this project, see, and search for project number EW17-006


Project Highlight: Appropriate Technology and Cooperative Marketing to Increase Root Crop Production on Alaska's Kenai Peninsula

The Kenai Peninsula is the fastest-growing agricultural region in Alaska, with the number of farms increasing at nearly three times the rate of the rest of the state. But most of those farms are small – less than five acres – and selling direct to consumers at farmers markets or to local restaurants. 

The Kenai Soil and Water Conservation District commissioned a study, completed in early 2017, that found for growers there to expand their distribution, they need to increase their production and look at coordinating marketing and distribution. The study also looked at potential cash crops. Potatoes were one of the crops identified.

The problem for small growers, however, isn’t how well potatoes grow. It’s how much work they are to harvest when you’re digging them up by hand with a pitchfork. 

So, as a first step to expanding production and exploring cooperative marketing and distribution on the Kenai, the conservation district tested – and now rents out – a single-row potato digger and tub washer at a very reasonable rate. 

It’s already paying off for the Alaskan farmers, where labor is always in short supply. One grower reduced his harvest and processing time from seven days to less than two. There is a four- to six-week window for harvest that allow the region’s growers to share the single machine.

For more information on this project, see, and search for project number OW18-029