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KANW is a member of the Mountain West News Bureau, a collaboration of public media stations that serves the Western states of Colorado, Idaho, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming. Our mission is to tell stories about the people, places and issues across the Mountain West.From land and water management to growth in the expanding West to our unique culture and heritage, we'll explore the issues that define us and the challenges we face.

Growing crops in Wyoming is tricky. An upcoming seminar will offer tips

Hands hoilding brown soil with a green plant sprouting.
Marco Verch

Whether you have a backyard garden or a full-scale farm with crop production, growing things can be a challenge in the Rocky Mountains. But, an upcoming training will offer tips and tricks to alleviate some stress.

“It is Wyoming. It is different. It is difficult,” said Jeremiah Vardiman, University of Wyoming Extension educator in Powell.. “So the stigma is real, the soil problems are real. But is it manageable? Can you do it? Yes, you can. But it does take a bit of educating yourself and changing.”

That’s why Vardiman’s office is offering a two-day seminar on crop production in our region, with a specific focus on alkaline – or high pH – soils. These kinds of soils are common in Wyoming and come from a dry, arid climate. They don’t offer a lot of nutrients for plants.

“[Alkaline soil] limits nutrients available to the plants, and also limits how we can get those nutrients into the soil [and] into the crop,” Vardiman said. “And so we're just trying to alleviate that.”

He added that there isn’t a lot of information available on alkaline soils, rather, most of it is focused on acidic, or low pH, soils. Those types of soils are found in areas with high rainfall.

The seminar will offer some solutions and ideas for growing crops in alkaline soils – like how to sample soil to figure out its pH levels and properly fertilize this type of soil.

“Organic fertilizers, or synthetic fertilizers, those can get tied up in the soil. And thus, I'm putting money into the field, and it's not available to the plants still,” Vardiman said. “So how do we best manage that and stay profitable as an operation?”

The seminar is in Cody Feb. 14 and 15 and will also be available virtually.

Caitlin Tan is the Energy and Natural Resources reporter based in Sublette County, Wyoming. Since graduating from the University of Wyoming in 2017, she’s reported on salmon in Alaska, folkways in Appalachia and helped produce 'All Things Considered' in Washington D.C. She formerly co-hosted the podcast ‘Inside Appalachia.' You can typically find her outside in the mountains with her two dogs.