Catching Up with CALS — March 6, 2019
Dean's Message — A Great Week
We should all have more weeks like the CALS leadership team enjoyed Feb. 18-22 in the Treasure Valley.
The week started out with the 4-H Know Your Government breakfast, followed with a meeting of the CALS Dean’s Advisory Board, the Strolling Supper, the Larry Brannen Idaho Agricultural Summit, the Governor’s Awards Luncheon, a meeting of the Idaho Wheat Commission and joint research reviews with the Idaho Barley Commission, a CALS Alumni Awards Event, the Shaw Bull Sale, visits with various stakeholders/donors and a private dinner at the Arid Club with key members of the livestock and beef industry.
The week ended on a really high note with a meeting of the Treasure Valley Agricultural Coalition (TVAC). I want to expand on what transpired at the TVAC meeting.
The Treasure Valley Agriculture Coalition or TVAC, formed a decade ago to ensure the Parma Research and Extension Center survived earlier budget challenges. The J.R. Simplot Co. also stepped in to provide significant support over multiple years to keep the center open.
With budgets partially restored, the center is in no danger of closing — in fact, CALS has a plan to invest in and expand the center, both from a physical and faculty perspective. We met in March of last year in what we called a “Visioning Session” for Parma — we reviewed its history and its contribution to Idaho agriculture and the surrounding community.
In its heyday, the center had 12 faculty. That number is down to five and all are located in aging facilities. We listened to stakeholders in terms of what they would like to see from the center going forward. It took us a year to develop a plan for Parma, and we presented it to TVAC on Feb. 22.
We outlined a CALS plan to locate four new faculty there to work on pollinators, weed science, small fruits, and irrigation and soils. Part of the existing facility would be torn down and a new addition built.
The long-range plan includes a $7 million renovation and modernization for the center.
What followed was one of those moments when everything seems to fall together.
The 30 agricultural industry leaders and representatives voted unanimously to support our plan and they morphed from TVAC to IDAREC (Idaho Agricultural Research and Extension Coalition) on the spot with a charge to assist in the fundraising campaign. This was moving at the “speed of business,” something the university could learn from.
There are many times when we present ideas and hope that some take root. Rarely do we see those ideas blossom so quickly.
The tone of the meeting was so positive, and I do believe this group can succeed. Its members were enthusiastic, they were passionate and beyond that, they were excited.
There are two key points to keep in mind:
1) The expansion of the Parma facility will include creation of the Idaho Center for Plant and Soil Health — the work done will benefit all of Idaho Agriculture, not just the agricultural industry surrounding Parma.
2) IDAREC will start with Parma, but then will focus on investing in and modernizing the other R&E centers in the state.
There is a real need for modern laboratories and infrastructure to offer cutting edge technology to the agricultural industry. This will enable us to recruit the best new researchers and retain the excellent scientists we already employ.
The future of all the R&E centers in Idaho looks bright indeed.
IDAREC’s goal is to unify the state’s commodity commissions to act in their own best interest by supporting research and extension efforts that are tailored directly to answering their questions and addressing local issues.
Parma is a great place to start. We believe that if agricultural interests can raise $3 million, the Idaho Legislature will respond with another $3 million and CALS will contribute $1 million.
It was nearly a century ago, some records show it as 1922, when Parma residents came to the university and asked for help to solve an economically devastating alfalfa weevil outbreak. The college stationed two researchers there, who helped address the problem.
It is rewarding to know that Parma recognizes the value of research and extension, and that it has a lot of friends willing to help. I believe that as we pursue this plan, the Parma community will share in the revitalization we want and need at a valuable research and extension center there.
Michael P. Parrella
College of Agricultural and Life Sciences
By the Numbers
56 percent, about half, of fall potato production remains from the 2018 crop. That’s the same 56 percent for February potato stocks last year by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Agricultural Statistics Service. But a bigger fall 2018 harvest, 140,175,000 hundredweight compared to 134,850,000 hundredweight in 2017, means that Idaho’s current potato stockpile stands 400 million pounds higher this year.
Our Stories — McIntosh Pick for AERS Head
An academic career that began at the University of Idaho with bachelor’s and master’s degrees completed a full circle for Chris McIntosh with his acceptance as head of the Department of Agricultural Economics and Rural Sociology.
The scion of one of the Lewiston-area’s earliest farm families, McIntosh chose the university and its College of Agriculture to enroll in after high school.
“I never could have imagined this when I came to the U of I as a freshman in 1974,” McIntosh said.
From Idaho, he earned his doctorate in agricultural economics at Texas A&M University, then taught there and at the University of Georgia before returning to U of I as a professor of agricultural economics to teach at Idaho Falls in 1999.
When Ricks College at Rexburg transitioned to BYU-Idaho and a four-year degree program, McIntosh moved back to the Moscow campus.
He has experience as department head, serving in an interim capacity twice.
“Chris has served in this role in an interim basis since fall of 2017, and has been outstanding,” said CALS Dean Michael Parrella.
“He has represented AERS well to those within the university as well as to our external stakeholders across the state. Thanks to his long history with the University of Idaho, Chris has a deep understanding and appreciation of U of I and CALS,” Parrella said.
In addition to his dedication to students, growing enrollment and retention at both the undergraduate and graduate levels, McIntosh also cultivated strong relationships among CALS’ agricultural stakeholders across the state.
“Chris’ research activities in the economics of potato disease management is highly multidisciplinary.
His service roles through editorship of two different journals within the ag econ profession has brought great visibility from the profession nationally. Chris’ leadership within the department is well recognized,” Parrella said in announcing the appointment.
He will lead a team of researchers in four CALS departments who will team with scientists from nine other universities to address soil health and soilborne diseases in potatoes as part of an $8 million project directed by the University of Minnesota.
A four-year grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture National Institute of Food and Agriculture through its Specialty Crop Research Initiative is funding the work.
The project will address significant knowledge gaps related to the complex relationships among factors affecting soil health and potato soilborne diseases, Minnesota-based project director Carl Rosen said.
The project will consider the entire potato cropping system, including potato cultivar, rotation crops, biological control options, and cover crops to identify management practices that enhance soil health and reduce soilborne diseases.
The study will also seek to identify chemical and microbial indicators of soil health associated with those practices across the major U.S. potato production areas.
“Besides the physical aspects of soil health, we will assess the economic benefits of increased soil health and decreased disease pressures,” McIntosh said. “We also hope to derive better estimates of farmers’ real and perceived costs and benefits of engaging in soil health enhancing practices.”
The potential financial impacts of soilborne diseases in potato production are significant. In the U.S., potatoes are grown on more than 1 million acres in 30 states with a farm-gate value of approximately $4 billion. The top nine producing states are Idaho, Washington, Oregon, North Dakota, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, Maine and Colorado.
The overall goal of the research will be to enhance environmental quality and to sustain the economic viability of potato operations in the U.S. The U of I team includes researchers from the departments of plant sciences; soil and water systems; entomology, plant pathology and nematology; and agricultural economics and rural sociology.
The project’s goals include a tool to assess soil health and soilborne pathogen risk for precision management of potato crops. Researchers will also study management practices and soil microbial populations that are associated with improved soil health.
The project will develop practical recommendations for soil enhancements and optimal crop management strategies potato producers throughout the U.S.
Faces and Places
CALS researcher Alex Karasev will be honored as a fellow of the American Phytopathological Society during its annual meeting in August.
- April 5 — CALS Wine and Cheese Gala, 1912 Center, 412 E. Third St., Moscow. 4-7 p.m.
- April 5 — CALS Awards nomination deadline by 5 p.m.
- April 19 — CALS Alumni and Friends Awards nomination deadline, 5 p.m.
- April 23 — All CALS Meeting, Vandal Ballroom, Bruce M. Pitman Center, Moscow, 8:30 a.m. PDT
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