Catching Up with CALS — Oct. 16, 2019
Dean's Message — Idaho Wines
A few weeks ago, the U of I Office of Alumni Relations extended an invitation to join a tasting for its wine club, Vandals Uncorked.
With 28 wines to sample, the afternoon presented a daunting challenge. The selections came from seven wineries, and four wines won a spot as the next offerings for Vandals Uncorked. They included Indian Creek’s Moscato, Clearwater Canyon’s Albariño, Lindsay Creek’s Irresponsibility and Huston’s Petite Sirah Cabernet Sauvignon Blend.
The selections offer a glimpse of Idaho’s wine community south and north, old and new. Indian Creek Winery near Kuna in the Snake River Valley AVA was founded in 1982 and ranks as an elder. Huston Vineyards on Chicken Dinner Road near Caldwell was established in 2007.
Clearwater Canyon Cellars was founded in 2004 in Lewiston in the Lewis-Clark Valley AVA. Nearby Lindsay Creek Vineyards first planted grapes in 2007 and began operations in 2013.
Helping Idaho wineries ranks high on the college’s and UI Extension’s short list of priorities.
A vibrant collection of wineries already operates in the state from the newest Lewis-Clark Valley American Viticulture Area approved three years ago to the venerable Snake River Valley AVA approved in 2007.
The 52 wineries already operating and the industry’s $170 million impact make a clear case that the college can help an important agricultural sector.
We hear that message loud and clear from vineyards and winemakers.
Growing quality wine grapes relies heavily on good research and extension activities. Our effort will likely focus on a statewide Extension specialist.
Our plan calls for locating the position at the Parma Research and Extension Center and the new Idaho Center for Plant and Soil Health there.
Parma pomologist Essie Fallahi’s excellent viticulture research and vineyard there, and Parma’s location close to the 61 vineyards and wineries of the Snake River Valley AVA, makes it the best base for now.
The specialist will be responsive to all of the growers statewide. What the specialist learns in Lewiston or Kendrick may inform management near Huston, Kuna or Buhl.
With a history dating back to the earliest years of settlement, the Lewis-Clark Valley AVA may offer the most varied opportunities to expand the industry.
With a growing season that is among the longest and mildest in the state, the Lewiston-Clarkston Valley attracted interest 150 years ago and produced wines commercially nearly from the beginning. Its climate also allows growers to choose from a broader selection of wine grapes, and threatens fewer devastating freezes than other locations in the state.
The Vandals Uncorked tasting session showed that Idaho’s grape growers and winemakers already produce some fine wines from an industry that is just gaining a solid footing.
We in CALS have every reason to expect those numbers and the excitement to grow as more quality wines produced in Idaho reach consumers.
Michael P. Parrella
College of Agricultural and Life Sciences
By the Numbers
4,080,000 tons of alfalfa hay: Idaho’s production through Oct. 1 represented a 7 percent decline from 2018, according to the USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service. The 1,020,000 acres harvested fell 30,000 acres or 2.9 percent, and yield per acre dropped .2 tons per acre to 4, according to projections. Other hay totaled 480,000 tons, down 21 percent from last year. The 240,000 acres harvested was 50,000 less than last year and yield dropped .1 ton to 2 tons an acre.
Our Stories — Drugs Affect Soil Ecology
Use of antibiotics is under heightened scrutiny due to the increased prevalence of antibiotic-resistant pathogens. While the primary focus is on more stringent use of antibiotics in medical settings, the use of antibiotics in the livestock sector is gaining increased attention.
A new study led by Colorado State University and the University of Idaho found multiple effects on soils from exposure to manure from cows administered antibiotics, including alteration of the soil microbiome and ecosystem functions, soil respiration and elemental cycling.
The team also saw changes in how plants allocate carbon below ground and take up nitrogen from the soil. In addition, they observed a decrease in ecosystem carbon use efficiency. This means that when antibiotics are used, less carbon is stored in the soil and more is lost to the atmosphere as carbon dioxide.
The study, “Prolonged exposure to manure from livestock-administered antibiotics decreases ecosystem carbon-use efficiency and alters nitrogen cycling,” was published Oct. 9 in Ecology Letters.
Carl Wepking, the lead author and a postdoctoral fellow in the Department of Biology at CSU, said the findings give him “pause” due to the widespread use of antibiotics. CALS researchers Michael Strickland and Jane Lucas co-authored the paper.
“There’s no environment on Earth that is free from the effects of antibiotics,” he said.
In the U.S., 80 percent of antibiotics are used in livestock production. Globally, livestock antibiotic use is projected to increase by 67 percent by the year 2030.
For the study, researchers analyzed ecosystems exposed to manure from cattle given no antibiotics and manure from cattle given a common antibiotic, as well as a control sample not exposed to manure. All of the manure samples were collected from standard dairy operations maintained by researchers from the Virginia Tech Department of Dairy Science.
Previous research on this topic found researchers injecting antibiotics into manure, then adding it to the soil, or adding raw antibiotics to the soil, Wepking said. The design of this study offered a much more realistic and applicable design.
The research team also used a technique to examine the manure’s effect on whole ecosystems. Scientists took samples over the course of seven days and found that in the presence of antibiotics carbon traveled into the above-ground plant material, to the roots of the plants, into the soil and respired back out as carbon dioxide much faster than any of the others.
“There was much less of that new carbon retained in the system compared with other soils we sampled,” Wepking said. He also serves as executive director of the Global Soil Biodiversity Initiative, which is housed in the School of Global Environmental Sustainability at CSU.
While more research is needed, Wepking said given the study’s findings, people may want to consider the effects of antibiotics in the soil when using manure as fertilizer.
“Research is expanding more and more to look at antibiotic exposure and resistance in agricultural landscapes,” said Wepking. “It’s already well-documented that overuse of antibiotics is a problem for humans, and that we are running out of effective antibiotics to treat bacterial infections. Based on this research, we have learned that antibiotic use also has environmental effects.”
Antibiotics Can Harm Soil Nutrient Recyclers
Antibiotic drugs help ward off diseases in people by attacking bacteria and fungi, but the same drugs can harm the body’s helpful microbes.
Antimicrobial drugs can cause environmental damage, too, by killing helpful insect-like animals that break down leaves and organic debris, a University of Idaho-led team of researchers reported.
The researchers tested the impact of antibiotic drugs on soil ecosystems at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Panama. The team included scientists from the Universities of Oklahoma and Louisville and Cornell University.
“Our study suggests that the input of antibiotics could be damaging key nutrient recycling organisms,” U of I research scientist Jane Lucas said.
The team’s findings were reported in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B on Sept. 25.
Chemical warfare among microbes is well known and makes soil fertile ground for pharmaceutical drug prospecting. “We found that both antifungal and antibacterial antibiotics changed soil microbes, as many would expect,” Lucas said.
The unexpected result was that adding antibacterials to the soil cut the number of invertebrates, including pill bug-like isopods and millipedes, by a third. These larger soil animals help break down plant debris.
“We found that antibiotic compounds can directly decrease the survival of these important decomposers,” she said.
“We are conducting follow-up studies that will test whether antibiotic compounds are harmful to organisms in a variety of ecosystems, like agricultural and grassland soils.” Lucas said.
This grant, titled “Graduate Research Fellowship” is funded by the National Science Foundation under Award Number GRF-2014170874. The total amount of federal funds for the project is $46,000, which amounts to 30 percent of the total cost of project.
Faces and Places
Instructor Lori Wahl coordinated the event Design Day activities in the Margaret Ritchie School of Family and Consumer Sciences Apparel, Textiles and Design laboratory on Oct. 10 that drew 17 high school students.
Meat scientist Phil Bass conducted a workshop for Palouse-area culinarians about the dynamics of beef steak. The event drew a capacity crowd to the Carmelita Spencer Foods Laboratory in the Margaret Ritchie School of Family and Consumer Sciences.
- Oct. 19 — U of I Soil Stewards Fall Fest, Soil Stewards Farm near the Sheep Center, pumpkin picking, Sandpoint Organic Agriculture Center apples, pumpkin pie sale and other activities, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
- Oct. 24 — Inaugural Haunted Museum Hunt for children 4 to 10 sponsored by the Aldrich Entomology Club, William F. Barr Insect Museum, Ag Sciences, Room 136, 5:30-8 p.m.
- Nov. 5 — All-College Meeting, Bruce M. Pitman Center, Vandal Ballroom, Moscow, 8:30-10 a.m. PT.
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