Catching Up with CALS — May 15, 2019
Dean's Message — Beyond Graduation
U of I graduation on Saturday brought out the best CALS has to offer.
Our students celebrated their passage through one of the great American educational systems that are unequaled anywhere in the world. CALS has the reputation of turning out graduates who become well-prepared employees — for many the ethos of working hard was instilled in them long before they got to U of I.
Many of our graduates walked off the stage and into jobs in their chosen fields. Others have offers to sort through before deciding which option is the best as they develop their career goals.
Many of our alumni’s careers circle back with lasting ties to the college and the vast majority remain connected with Idaho agriculture.
Not long ago, I met one of the college’s former students who plays an important role in Elk Mountain Farms near Bonners Ferry, the world’s largest contiguous hop farm operated by Anheuser-Busch.
The farm plans to add 30 acres of organic hop production, another example of the broadening base of organic agriculture in Idaho and beyond. Many commercial agriculture sectors are devoting significant resources to organic production to meet growing consumer interest.
We also will consider organic agriculture opportunities across a broad spectrum at the Sandpoint Organic Agriculture Center (SOAC).
SOAC will host the inaugural Heritage Orchard Conference at the end of May. Researchers from other universities will participate as will other heirloom apple and fruit enthusiasts. David Benscoter, the famous "Apple Detective," will join the group.
His passion and expertise for finding “lost” apple varieties made him a celebrity among many professional and home orchardists.
The conference was organized by Benscoter and SOAC manager Kyle Nagy to provide a forum for those interested in heritage orchards and the genetic treasures they represent. The conference will also give Kyle a chance to explain CALS’ overall goals at Sandpoint.
The decision at Elk Mountain Farms to add organic hops links together CALS present and continuing ties to the hop industry. We enjoy a close working relationship with Idaho hop producers through the Parma Research and Extension Center.
One of our hiring priorities there is to find an entomologist to replace Jim Barbour, who retired as center superintendent. Jim worked closely with the hops industry and his replacement (to be named this month) will do the same.
This month our work near Parma shifts into new and critical areas with the testing of the U of I Clean Water Machine developed by CALS professors Greg Moller and Dan Strawn and mechanical engineer Martin Baker.
The testing will tie in with work to improve the Treasure Valley’s water quality by Clean Water Partners, a group that includes U of I alums Hal Anderson and Doug Jones. Many in CALS know Doug as a longtime adviser and supporter of CALS and a former state legislator.
To much of the world, graduation probably conjures images of sleepy college campuses enjoying a summer respite from the rigorous academic year. Those who know agricultural colleges, and CALS in particular, know that the ceremony means our busy season has only just begun.
Michael P. Parrella
College of Agricultural and Life Sciences
By the Numbers
400,000 tons of Idaho on-farm hay stocks tallied May 1 represented a 39 percent decline from a year ago, the USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service reported. Idaho’s Dec. 1, 2018, total of 2.4 million tons marked a 9 percent increase from a year earlier.
Our Stories — Heritage Orchard Confab Set
The Sandpoint Organic Agriculture Center at the University of Idaho will expand its mission to provide public education Friday, May 31, when it hosts the Heritage Orchard Conference for researchers, heritage apple explorers, fruit growers and others.
U of I acquired the 48-acre center near Sandpoint in 2018 through a donation from Dennis Pence and his family. The center’s main focus is an organic orchard that produces apples, cherries, plums, raspberries and other fruits.
The conference will feature David Benscoter of Spokane, Washington. He is widely known for his Lost Apple Project, which finds and identifies apple varieties that survive in early settlers’ orchards.
University of Wyoming and Montana State University researchers engaged in similar efforts to identify and restore their place in modern orchards will also present during the daylong conference.
U of I Sandpoint Organic Agriculture Center Manager Kyle Nagy said the event focusing on heritage orchards began with a call from Benscoter shortly after the university’s acquisition of the center.
“We talked about the growing interest in heritage fruit varieties and similar interests among researchers in Montana and Wyoming,” Nagy said. “We hope that this conference presented by the University of Idaho will become the first in a series.”
Wyoming researcher Steve Miller will talk about his efforts to identify and save his state’s 100-year-old apple varieties during the conference.
Montana State researchers Katrina Mendrey, Rachel Leisso and Zach Miller will review similar efforts there. Mendrey will also lead a discussion of future goals and collaborations to link regional heritage orchard programs.
Other presenters include Casimir Holeski and Sadie Barrett. Both, like Benscoter, have worked to find, identify and preserve heritage fruit varieties. A full conference schedule is available at the event website.
Conference registration costs $40 with dormitory-style lodging available at the center for $10 per night Thursday and Friday, May 30-31. Registration and more information is available online.
NIH Renews Idaho INBRE for $17 Million
A statewide network of Idaho’s educational institutions received a five-year, $17 million award to build Idaho’s growing biomedical workforce and strengthen research infrastructure.
The Idaho IDeA Network of Biomedical Research Excellence is led by the University of Idaho. Carolyn Hovde Bohach, university distinguished professor in U of I’s College of Agricultural and Life Sciences, serves as Idaho INBRE director.
The funds, received through the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Institutional Development Award (IDeA) Program from the National Institute of General Medical Sciences, will continue research on advances in areas including new antibiotics, brain trauma, safety issues with e-cigarettes, cancer therapeutics and improvements for wound healing.
“Idaho INBRE has been the primary driver of biomedical research advancement statewide,” Bohach said. “Through previous NIH INBRE awards and support from the participating schools, Idaho has expanded the breadth and capabilities of its core research facilities, built a pipeline of biomedical research and education opportunities for students, and dramatically increased the number of faculty participating in biomedical projects and collaborating across Idaho and the Western region.”
The Idaho IDeA Network of Biomedical Research Excellence (Idaho INBRE), comprises a network of 11 state institutions: University of Idaho, Boise State University, Brigham Young University-Idaho, The College of Idaho, College of Southern Idaho, College of Western Idaho, Idaho State University, Idaho Veterans Research and Education Foundation, Lewis-Clark State College, North Idaho College and Northwest Nazarene University.
“Idaho INBRE has provided research opportunities to more than 2,900 undergraduate students, 390 graduate students and 33 postdoctoral fellows to support the biomedical research field,” said Ginger E. Carney, dean at U of I’s College of Science, which houses the Idaho INBRE program.
“Carolyn Bohach is the perfect example of a modern agricultural researcher and educator, tirelessly working to build Idaho’s biomedical research and education capabilities through the National Institutes of Health grants shared by all of the state’s universities and colleges,” said CALS Dean Michael Parrella. “Her research helps us better understand how E. coli threatens our food supply.”
Rhena Cooper, microbiology professor at North Idaho College and director of the INBRE Student Program, helps ensure a consistent statewide research and professional development experience for INBRE students.
“INBRE has been pivotal in the research development of our students,” Cooper said. “It is a turning point for most students because it is their first intense research experience.”
Idaho INBRE has been awarded more than $60 million since 2001, not including this new award, to help expand biomedical research capacity at U of I and member institutions.
The program also serves as an economic driver, with $10.3 million in funding given to faculty statewide in the form of research seed grants. That investment resulted in more than $108.7 million in new grants, a tenfold return.
“Idaho INBRE has had a tremendous impact on biomedical research across the state,” said Janet E. Nelson, U of I vice president for research and economic development. “The program has enhanced Idaho’s research infrastructure through support of a statewide research development network. We are very excited to build on these successes.”
Faces and Places
Scott Jensen was presented the University Outreach and Engagement Award during the U of I Excellence Awards Ceremony April 23.
The Washington Grain Commission’s podcast Wheat All About It! Episode 121 features “Investigating Insects — And Climate Change — With U of I’s Sanford Eigenbrode.” The podcast is presented by Scott Yates, the commission’s director of communications and producer relations, and is available online at wagrains.org.
- May 31 — 2019 Heritage Orchard Conference, Sandpoint Organic Agriculture Center, Register, 7:30 a.m. to 7 p.m.
- June 1 — Sagebrush Saturday kickoff, Rinker Rock Creek Ranch near Hailey. RSVP, 3:30-7:30 p.m. MDT
- June 7 — Crops, Soils and Technology Field Day, Parma Research and Extension Center. Contact: Olga Walsh, email@example.com. Registration 8:30 a.m. Tour 8:45 a.m. to 1 p.m.
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