Catching Up with CALS May 3, 2017
Dean's Message — The Pace Quickens
Everything seems to accelerate as the academic year comes to a close.
This spring seems especially hectic as students complete the semester, and some prepare to graduate.
In recognition of that fact, thank you for taking time to attend the all-college meeting last week. The session provided an excellent opportunity to hear President Chuck Staben’s views about the UI’s current status and our progress in reaching goals that he and we have set together.
Yesterday, the president and I met with Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter to talk about progress on the Center for Agriculture, Food and the Environment (CAFE). It was a very productive and positive meeting.
The governor and legislature have done their part in providing funding for CAFE. The onus is now on UI to fulfill our obligation to raise the additional funds (both internally and externally) to make the facility a reality. It is important to note that the university and college have responded to state leaders’ requests in a timely and comprehensive manner.
We have come a long way in a relatively short period of time. We have analyzed the feasibility study prepared by consultants and addressed questions it raised. With the site yet to be determined, we will build a 2,000 cow dairy on more than 1,000 acres. It will be the largest research dairy in the U.S.
CALS will be front and center in CAFE, but other colleges on the UI campus will also be represented. We have communicated the value of the project to those with a stake in the outcome within the university, to state leaders, to the agricultural industry and to key educational partners. This will continue in earnest over the summer.
I plan to meet with each department in the college in the coming months. So far, I have met with the Animal and Veterinary Science department and Plant, Soil and Entomological Sciences department. I want to thank them for taking time for these meetings. We talked about broad changes in how the college plans to do business in the future and focused on facilities and other matters specifically related to their departments.
In the run-up to graduation, spring is the season when we acknowledge those who have excelled during the year with CALS and UI awards. I have enjoyed all of the events and recognizing many of the nominees and winners as students, staff and faculty with whom I’ve had the chance to talk and work.
It is my pleasure to serve as dean for such a talented, dedicated group. I hope you will find a moment during the next few weeks to remember that and to be proud of the role you play in our efforts.
MICHAEL P. PARRELLA
College of Agricultural and Life Sciences
By the Numbers
26 weeks at the Moscow Farmers Market will give CALS faculty, staff and students plenty of opportunity to strut their stuff. A key feature will be 3 months of Summer of Science activities for children in grades K-5 to encourage them to exercise their observation skills.
Our Stories — Leading International Potato Scientists Visit
Leading scientists from CIP, the International Potato Center based in Lima, Peru, are meeting with CALS administrators and researchers this week.
Dave Ellis, head of CIP’s Genebank and program leader for its conserving biodiversity for the future program, and Noelle Barkley, CIP’s genetic resources conservation manager, began meeting with CALS faculty and staff Monday. They traveled to Pullman and Prosser, Washington, on Tuesday to meet with Washington State University and U.S. Department of Agriculture Agricultural Research Service researchers. They presented a program today in CALS and met with researchers. They will visit CALS research and extension centers in southern Idaho next.
The visit is a followup to a visit to CIP and Peru’s Parque de la Papa by CALS potato researchers Nora Olsen, Mike Thornton and Joe Kuhl.
CIP is a member of the worldwide CGIAR network of 15 research centers worldwide dedicated to innovating agriculture on behalf of poor people in developing countries.
In addition to learning about potato production in the leading U.S. region, their visit to the University of Idaho also reflected closer collaboration. Kuhl and other CALS researchers are working with CIP researchers to analyze the phytonutrients in tissue from potatoes grown at different elevations in Peru.
The CIP trials offer insight into how the nutritional content of potatoes from the same landraces can change with altitude. The Andes are the origin for potatoes, a New World crop that is one of the most important and ubiquitous foods worldwide.
Climate change has shifted the key potato producing areas 200 meters higher, Ellis said. The shift means some farmers can no longer grow traditional varieties at lower elevations and farmers must go higher to produce potatoes in areas more fragile environmentally.
Even the traditional practice naturally freeze-drying potatoes to remove their bitter taste could be in jeopardy as climate shifts bring warmer winters, replacing the intense cold-dry weather needed for processing.
Gene Discovery Advances Hopes for Hybrid Wheat
A team of Chinese researchers led by CALS wheat geneticist Daolin Fu reported Friday the discovery of a new crop-breeding advance that can lead to higher yields and more efficient efforts to develop new and better wheat and barley varieties.
The report in the journal Nature Communications describes how wheat gene Ms2 yields a protein that produces male sterility in grass species. Creating sterile male breeding lines can make hybrid wheat varieties more practical to produce.
Fu, who joined the faculty in UI’s College of Agricultural and Life Sciences in 2016, led the team while a researcher at China’s State Key Laboratory of Crop Biology at Shandong Agricultural University in Taian.
Fu also worked as a researcher at the University of California, Davis with leading wheat scientist Jorge Dubcovsky. The Idaho Wheat Commission supported Fu’s hiring by UI through a novel agreement to harness the power of new genetic approaches to improving wheat production.
The work by the Chinese team led by Fu identified the location of the wheat gene and showed how it works to produce male sterility in wheat and barley.
The gene can be used in wheat and barley varieties through several methods, including CRISPR Cas9 editing methods, to simplify production of hybrids. Hybrid plants, notably corn, can show up to 15 percent yield increases through hybrid vigor.
The discovery also promises to speed and refine a plant breeding method known as recurrent selection, which uses multiple generations of crosses to refine varieties. The new method could reduce by several years the amount of time required.
The current practice is labor intensive, requiring workers to physically remove anthers, the plant’s male parts that produce pollen. With sterile male plants, two or more wheat varieties can be planted together but only specific varieties can serve as pollinators.
Plant breeders can link the sterility gene to traits in wheat varieties to control the traits’ inheritance in future generations. The discovery will allow greater precision in predicting those genetic crosses.
The journal Nature Communications published the work online Friday, April 28. It is at https://www.nature.com/articles/ncomms15121.
Canyon County Sets Pollinator Week Activities June 17-24
UI Extension in Canyon County will partner with the Xerces Society, the City of Nampa, Deer Flat Wildlife Refuge, the City of Caldwell, Walt Disney Studios and Northern Lights Cinema and Grill for a weeklong celebration of pollinators.
Outreach events will teach home gardeners of all ages things they can do in their own backyards to help promote pollinators.
Events will kick off June 17 at the Nampa Farmers Market with bee-attracting plants for sale, youth activities and free flower seeds.
On Monday, June 19, biologists will talk about mammals (bats) as pollinators at the Deer Flat Wildlife Refuge.
UI Extension will talk about honey bees on June 20 followed on June 21 by Idaho Master Gardeners at the Caldwell Farmers Market with youth activities and demonstrations about attracting pollinators.
The Nampa Library will host a presentation about planting a pollinator garden on June 22.
On June 23 at West Park in Nampa, Idaho Master Gardeners will offer activities at demonstration gardens. Participants will build insect hotels for youth to take home. A native bee display and demonstration is planned, including dedication of the West Park Bee Motel in the pollinator demonstration garden.
On June 24, Pollinator Week in Canyon County will conclude with a grand finale at the Northern Lights Theatre with a free showing of Disney’s “Wings of Life.” Local nurseries and garden centers are invited to attend to promote bee-friendly plants. Youth activities and a pollinator information fair for the community are also planned.
Canyon County horticulture educator Rich Guggenheim will coordinate the pollinator week activities.
Faces and Places
Barbara Foltz, survey operations manager for the Agricultural Economics and Rural Sociology department, was recently appointed as a member of the Advisory Committee on Agriculture Statistics by the United States Department of Agriculture.
Foltz is a 23-year member of the department’s staff and was recognized with a 2017 UI Outstanding Employee Award for non-faculty exempt staff.
The committee advises the secretary of Agriculture and the National Agricultural Statistics Service on the conduct of agricultural censuses and surveys at annual meetings. NASS conducts hundreds of surveys each year about virtually every aspect of U.S. agriculture.
Ariel Agenbroad will serve as the Idaho Core Partner for the National Farm to School Network. The Idaho State Department of Agriculture and Idaho State Department of Education Child Nutrition program supported her appointment and will serve as supporting partners in the effort.
Key goals include reinvigorating the Idaho Master Gardener school garden mentor program, continuing teacher trainings for school gardens and boosting awareness of farm-to-school efforts in Idaho.
A pilot Idaho farm to summer feeding program is planned in the Treasure Valley this summer with help from UI student interns. Agenbroad will increase her involvement in farm to school efforts during the next three years.
Anita Falen received a 2017 UI Outstanding Employee Award for non-faculty exempt staff in recognition for her work as a research associate in the Plant, Soil and Entomological Sciences department. The honor noted her research, teaching and outreach efforts, and the effort she made to help students. Falen received a standing ovation during the staff awards ceremony April 26 as she was recognized for her 48 years of service to CALS.
Cathy Roheim, Agricultural Economics and Rural Sociology department head, has been appointed to the board of directors of The Council on Food, Agricultural and Resource Economics. C-FARE promotes the work of applied economists and serves as a catalyst for incorporating economic thinking into the analysis of food, agricultural and resource decisions.
Helen Brown and Lorie Higgins were honored with University Excellence in Outreach and Engagement Awards and Jeremy Falk received the University Mid-Career Faculty Award during the University Awards Banquet April 25.
CALS staff members were honored during the Staff Awards Luncheon April 26 included Tina Holmquist, Outstanding Employee Award in the technical/paraprofessional category, and Jordan McClintick-Chass, Outstanding Employee Award in the service and maintenance award category.
The Outstanding Team Award for the Crowdfunding Campaign went to: Eric Billings, Michelle Boese-Empey, James Brownson, Amy Calabretta, Hans Guske, Bill Loftus, Jason Mayer, Jen Root, Debra Rumford, Carly Schoepflin, Tiffani Stubblefield, Lynna Stewart, Lauren Torok and Todd Young.
Forty-five outstanding students, faculty and staff nominees were honored at the CALS Awards Banquet April 24.
Six students won awards: Outstanding Freshman Bridgette Rogers, Outstanding Sophomore Ashlee Hansen, Outstanding Junior Katie Wilkins, Outstanding Senior Brett Wilder, Outstanding Club Member Maggie Elliott of Collegiate FFA, and Outstanding Gamma Sigma Delta Grad Student Jennifer Spencer.
Faculty winners were Outstanding Academic Advisor Marvin Heimgartner and R.M. Wade Excellence in Teaching recipient Katie Brown.
Outstanding Staff winners were Tiffani Stubblefield, (CALS Advancement), Janice Jones (CALS Administrative Services), Anita Falen (PSES) and Jordan McClintick-Chess (Parma R&E center).
Collegiate FFA won the Outstanding Club award.
Find more about all of the nominees online.
- May 4 — Reception in honor of Larry Makus. Tom and Diana Nicholson Ag Biotech Interaction Court. Refreshments and no-host bar provided. 3-5 p.m.
- May 6 — TEDx UIdaho presents "What's NeXt?". Hartung Theater. 1-7 p.m.
- May 6-7 — Envision Data Workshop, for students to present data with more “soul.” UI Library. May 6, 9 a.m.-4 p.m., May 7, 9 a.m.-noon
- May 7 — Idaho Water Awareness and Water Advocacy project water trivia contest and fundraiser. Rants and Raves Brewery, 11:30 a.m.-3:30 p.m.
- May 8-12 — Food for Finals
- May 12-14 — Washington FFA Conference. Pullman
- May 13 — Commencement
- June 7-8 — Idaho FFA Career Development Events. Moscow
- June 26-29 — 4-H State Teen Association Convention. Moscow
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