Catching Up with CALS — June 28, 2017
Dean's Message — Deep Roots
A beautiful day and high quality science made the Parker Farm Field Day a great event on Tuesday.
Our faculty, students and staff members gave great presentations about their work ranging from oilseeds, and molecular genetics to managing bark beetles to weed science and wheat variety development/precision breeding, among many other topics.
Once again, our collaborators at Limagrain Cereal Seeds attended. Chief Operating Officer Frank Curtis said he expects that royalties from the company’s marketing of UI wheat varieties will top $400,000 when the year’s accounting is complete.
UI President Chuck Staben also joined us, reaffirming his support for Idaho agriculture and our efforts on its behalf. The work at Parker Farm and other research and extension centers across the state yield real, tangible benefits.
The field day allowed me another opportunity to note that the president, Provost John Wiencek and I, along with other CALS leaders, are committed to making the most of our excellent research enterprise.
These changes in the 35-year-old structure of Plant, Soil and Entomological Sciences will help boost CALS' reputation by building on expertise we already have and encouraging greater visibility for excellent researchers and teachers.
Tuesday at the farm was also memorable, Idaho Agricultural Experiment Station Director Mark McGuire noted, because the experiment station marks its 125 anniversary this year.
Mark Turner, National Weather Service observation programs leader at Spokane, gave Roy Patten, Parker Farm manager, a certificate. It honored the 125 years of the university-operated Moscow-area weather station, with the last 57 years at Parker Farm.
That longevity makes the weather station the sixth oldest in Idaho. With 32 years of monitoring weather data, Patten is the longest-serving observer in the station’s history, Turner said.
Our research roots run deep at Parker Farm and at other centers around the state. Tuesday offered a beautiful day to celebrate our history and to look forward to even better days ahead.
MICHAEL P. PARRELLA
College of Agricultural and Life Sciences
By the Numbers
125 years of weather records led the National Weather Service to honor the Idaho Agricultural Experiment Station and Parker Farm during the June 27 field day there. Some stats: A weather station was established at Moscow on 2-1-1892. The weather station was moved to Parker Farm in 1960. 109 degrees F on 8-4-1961 is the highest recorded temperature. Minus 30 degrees F on 1-20-1937 is the lowest. 2.51 inches on 12-2-1998 is the maximum precipitation in 24 hours. 19 inches is the maximum snowfall in 24 hours. 36 inches on 2-2-1969 is the most snow on the ground.
Our Stories — CALS Grad Waxman Named First Spudwoman
The new award by Spudman Magazine expands an honor traditionally focused on male potato scientists. This month, Waxman is the magazine’s cover story as the inaugural recipient of the award to honor outstanding women potato scientists.
Her five-year journey through the often labyrinthine process of becoming a doctor of philosophy in science or any academic discipline is epic enough.
Add in that she did it as a single mom successfully guiding two children to adulthood, including daughter Jennifer Chan’s pursuit of a UI plant science degree in her mother’s footsteps, and Waxman’s accomplishment grows larger. Or that she married Robert Brown in 2013 and the family expanded to four teenagers.
Then further the saga by noting that she succeeded while working full-time and successfully overcoming one of women’s most serious health challenges.
And bring it all home with the final destination for her journey through the esoteric realm of agronomy, the science of growing plants, is as close as your kitchen or the Golden Arches along a street near you.
Waxman’s study focused on three new potato varieties developed through decades of work by University of Idaho researchers. Her inquiry: Could they meet McDonald’s high standards for becoming French fries?
The answer could mean millions of dollars in advantages for Idaho’s potato growers and consumers. New potato varieties emerge from rigorous testing because they need less water, fertilizer or pesticide applications, for example. Or they taste better, yield better or store better.
Growers benefit from reduced production costs. Consumers benefit from lower prices at the store.
“I like to say the Clearwater russet is the clear winner,” Waxman said. She ought to know because she has invested much effort in evaluating the new Idaho-bred potato variety that McDonald’s recently approved for use in its world famous French fries.
The Clearwater russet was developed as an agronomically superior potato through the efforts of the University of Idaho and U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Research Service potato breeding and testing collaboration based at the Aberdeen Research and Extension Center.
In the field, the Clearwater russet give the prized russet Burbank potato a run for its money. The Russet Burbank, the mainstay of French fry production, makes up more than half of Idaho’s potato crop that yielded $851 million in sales last year.
The Burbank russet is also more than 100-years old and remains a variety that still produces the big, oblong spuds that produce perfect fries. It is also a challenge to grow and store.
The Clearwater russet, a dual-purpose potato suitable for processing or fresh pack, requires 20-25 percent less nitrogen during the growing season than russet Burbank. Requiring less fertilizer may provide savings for growers and reduce environmental impacts.
The Clearwater typically produces high yields with a high percentage of U.S. No. 1 tubers that contain protein concentrations 38 percent higher than Burbank. It’s high specific gravity and resistance to sugar ends and defects help its processing appeal.
That’s where Waxman’s efforts as a potato scientist came into play.
Her scientific committee includes the top potato scientists on the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences faculty: experts in variety development, Jeff Stark; potato breeding, Rich Novy; storage, Nora Olsen; agronomy Mike Thornton; and economics, Joe Guenthner.
Like most rising stars, the Clearwater russet’s story was one of persistence and hard work on the part of Stark and Novy, Waxman said. They led the variety’s development, then championed its merits until they became convincingly clear.
Already employed as a potato scientist by the Meridian-based 1,4Group, which develops and markets treatments to prevent potatoes from sprouting in storage, she earned her doctorate through the company-sponsored educational benefit program and fulfilled a career goal set decades ago.
Before it allows a new potato variety to enter its supply chain for French fries, McDonalds wants proof that it will perform as expected. Her research evaluated Clearwater russet and found that it demanded less technical growing and storing virtuosity than the Burbank and had more net benefits than another newer potato variety, the alpine russet.
4-H State Teen Association Convenes on Moscow Campus
The 91st year of 4-H’ers traveling to Moscow from across Idaho is underway on campus this week.
The UI Extension 4-H Youth Development program is hosting 140 youth from ages 13 to 18 gathered for the Idaho 4-H State Teen Association Convention, previously known as the 4-H Teen Conference.
Conventioneers are participating in education workshops, service learning projects, association leadership elections and community and campus tours.
“Blast Off: A Galaxy of Opportunity” is this year’s conference theme. Conventioneers will learn about agriculture, life science, engineering, communication, theater arts and other topics.
4-H’ers will tour the Gritman Medical Center, UI Dairy, Latah County Courthouse, Inland Northwest Radio, Pape Machinery, Biotracking, Washington State University veterinary school and Schweitzer Engineering.
Conventioneers will make blankets to give to area shelters and local emergency response crews as one of their service projects in addition to others in cooperation with the Palouse-Clearwater Environmental Institute.
Faces and Places
CALS animal and veterinary science graduate student Kacie Salove won a second place award in the master’s student poster competition during the American Meat Science Association Reciprocal Meats Conference at College Station, Texas. Her poster title was “The Relationship Between Heifer Carcass Maturity and Beef Palatability.”
The American Meat Science Association recognized CALS meat scientist Matthew Doumit with its 2017 Distinguished Teaching Award. The award was established to recognize excellence in the teaching of undergraduate and graduate meat science courses and the impact on the lives of those students in a highly positive manner. Doumit is a professor in animal and veterinary science and will begin serving as CALS associate dean for academics in August. He was honored at a special awards banquet at the AMSA 70th Reciprocal Meat Conference on June 20 in College Station, Texas.
Ericka Rupp, a Margaret Ritchie School of Family and Consumer Sciences alumna and current FCS alumni board president, received the Idaho Business Review Accomplished Women Under 40 award in mid-June in Boise.
- June 26-29 — 4-H State Teen Association Convention, Moscow
- July 19 — Twilight Tour, Aberdeen Research and Extension Center, 5-8 p.m.
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