Catching Up with CALS — Nov. 15, 2017
Dean's Message — Giving Thanks
It is the season of thanks. In a few days, campus will empty for the Thanksgiving break and we will all enjoy the chance to relax a little and see friends and family. I wish you safe travels.
I am thankful for many blessings this year. An outstanding team here in CALS gives me strong confidence in the college’s future. The collective efforts of faculty, staff and administrators helped place several CALS departments among the top echelon during the recent program prioritization effort across campus.
We will take a significant step this week with the groundbreaking for a new classroom and office building at the Nancy M. Cummings Research, Extension and Education Center near Salmon.
The new building will bring new opportunities to our researchers and students there, and to the community through expanded education options and as a meeting place.
I personally had a chance last week to reach a lifetime goal of serving my scientific discipline, entomology. I became president of the Entomological Society of America during its annual meeting in Denver.
As an entomologist, I have had the joy of discovery and the opportunity to meet people and solve problems. It has been a rich career that I never would have dreamed possible when I first began to study animal science.
The Entomological Society of America was founded to promote sound science and the public good. Like the University of Idaho, the society was founded in 1889. It is an honor to serve two institutions that have contributed greatly to agriculture and America.
Again, I wish you a happy Thanksgiving. We have much to give thanks for.
MICHAEL P. PARRELLA
College of Agricultural and Life Sciences
By the Numbers
13,100,000,000 or 13.1 billion pounds is a lot of potatoes. Or 131 million hundredweight, which is the 2017 Idaho harvest this fall forecasted by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Agricultural Statistics Service. The harvested area is predicted at 309,000 acres and yield per acre is 425 cwt. or 42,500 pounds per acre. Weather issues during spring planting cut Idaho total production compared to 2016 by 6 percent, harvested area about 5 percent and yield per acre by 1 percent. Idaho sugar beet production dipped 5 percent to 6.66 million tons, according to the NASS forecast. Corn production rose 12 percent from 2016 to 21 million bushels. Yield rose 22 bushels per acre this year to total 210 bushels per acre.
Our Stories — Profs Take Plant Sciences on the Road
Reprogramming plant cells to make shoots from leaves and DNA from strawberries offered novel exercises in the plant sciences for students at six high schools across south central Idaho in late October.
The tour of high school classrooms by Bob Tripepi, plant sciences department north division chair, and Joe Kuhl, an associate professor of plant sciences, took them to Minico, Kimberly, Canyon Ridge, Gooding, Wendell and Buhl high schools.
For Tripepi, who specializes in horticulture, the trip was one of more than a dozen he has taken to teach high school students about the science and practice of one of Idaho’s major industries.
“This one was different, though, because we have focused on agricultural education classes during past trips. This year, we decided to connect with biology teachers and their classes,” Tripepi said.
The trip was an opportunity to give biology students a different branch of science to consider, Tripepi said, and one that offers diverse career opportunities. Plant-based agriculture contributes more than $3 billion to Idaho’s economy.
The trip was both outreach on the part of the university to encourage students to consider plant science, and to encourage them to think about studying at the University of Idaho, Tripepi said.
Overall, the two professors worked with about 350 students during their high school visits. The trip was coordinated through Audra Cochran in the CALS Academic Programs office with help from Vicky Fajardo, the U of I’s Twin Falls-based recruiter.
During the three-day trip, the pair met with 25 high school classes. “The high school teachers were very receptive,” Tripepi said. “They liked it. I think the teachers liked it because it was something new for the students."
The visits also provided an opportunity to talk about the dual-enrollment class, principles of horticulture, which Tripepi oversees. Dual-enrollment courses provide one of the strongest incentives for Idaho high school students to consider going on to higher education and preparing themselves for college.
“We want the dual-enrollment classes to be very similar, like 90 to 100 percent the same, as the courses on campus,” Tripepi said.
The high school students also had a chance to try some plant science exercises that were fun. Kuhl helped them extract DNA from strawberries. Tripepi’s lab taught them to reprogram cells to propagate a popular ornamental plant, Torenia, also called wishbone flower.
The propagation exercise involved cutting leaves into pieces, then inserting them into agar plates dosed with a biocide to prevent fungal growth and cytokinins to reprogram the leaf cells to form shoots.
“I think it’s an ideal activity for high school students because they can watch the plants develop and they can take them home and grow them out,” Tripepi said.
The strawberry exercise is impressive because of the quantity of DNA the berries yield, Kuhl said. Strawberries have eight sets of chromosomes, totaling 56 chromosomes in all, and the berries’ chemistry promotes the release of DNA.
“So basically, you end up with a big glob of almost pure DNA because of the large quantity contained in each cell,” Kuhl said.
The exercise provided the chance to talk about nucleic acids and chromosomes in a medium most people understand and enjoy.
Tripepi, who will serve as the new plant sciences department’s interim head for two years, said he hopes more faculty will sign up for high school trips in the future.
Dietetics Students Combine Flavors for Holiday Table
Pie made with root vegetables. Potatoes made with coffee creamer. Cookies from mashed potatoes. Even chocolate soufflé starring yams.
If these combinations don’t sound like your typical Thanksgiving fare, that’s the point: They are recipes created by students in the University of Idaho’s Coordinated Program in Dietetics.
Each fall, students in the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences (CALS) Margaret Ritchie School of Family and Consumer Sciences are challenged to create a new recipe along a theme chosen by U of I first lady Mary Beth Staben. This year, Staben challenged the teams to create recipes around a “unity” theme of combining uncommon ingredients.
The results showcased the creativity and ingenuity of students, said Katie Miner, a senior instructor in CALS. The recipes are judged and the winner is featured on a holiday card sent to university donors by the Office of Donor Relations and Stewardship. This year’s winner, Vandal Sweet Potato Mash, combined cultures as well as ingredients.
The recipe was developed by Katie Akin, 21, of Colville, Washington, and Satoko Haji, 29, of Fukuoka, Japan. It combines sweet potatoes, honeycrisp apples and pecans with a tart balsamic brown sugar sauce.
Both apples and sweet potatoes are common at the Thanksgiving table, of course, but the combination isn’t usually American. Haji said they are commonly eaten together in Japan, however.
“I didn’t expect to like the flavor combination of sweet potatoes, apples and balsamic vinegar, but I was pleasantly surprised when I tasted Katie and Satoko’s recipe,” Miner said. “They met the challenge of creating a dish with Vandal unity through a unique blending of flavors as well as cultures. All of the students did a great job of developing a recipe that paired uncommon ingredients. It was fun to see the students excited to share the dish they had created.”
The 2017 contest recipes, as well as those created by previous classes, are available at uidaho.edu/tday-recipes.
Faces and Places
Robert Tripepi will serve as term department head of plant sciences in CALS from Jan. 1, 2018-Dec. 31, 2019. He succeeds interim department head Paul McDaniel, who led the successful launch of the new department since July.
As a horticulture professor, Tripepi has spent the past four years as division director for plant sciences north. His research focuses on the physiological and applied studies of woody landscape plants. Tripepi has been active in international programs within CALS, leading several groups of students on study-related trips to Mexico and Taiwan. He also serves as the advisor for the Plant and Soil Science Club. During the next two years, a national search will be conducted for a new department head to lead the department.
Sonya Meyer, Margaret Ritchie School of Family and Consumer Sciences director and FCS program leader for University of Idaho Extension, will return to teaching and research on June 30.
She joined CALS as FCS director and program leader for FCS. She is a strong advocate for faculty in the department and is known for her creativity and ability to find solutions to complex issues. As UI Extension FCS program leader, she contributed greatly to the Board on Human Sciences, an association of administrators of higher education units responsible for research/discovery, extension/outreach and teaching/learning programs in the human sciences at universities across the country. A national search for a new director will be launched in the coming year.
- Nov. 16 — Nancy M. Cummings Research, Extension and Education Center classroom building groundbreaking, 11 a.m. MT
- Nov. 18 — 2017 Women in Ag Conference planned in 40 locations, including Bonners Ferry, Caldwell, Coeur d’Alene, McCall, Salmon, Sandpoint and Twin Falls. Registration $25 until Nov. 5, $30 after. 8 a.m.-3:30 p.m. PT
- Dec. 7 — U of I SAS (Short and Sweet) Research Speaker Series, Greg Moller, IRIC, 4-7 p.m.
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