Catching Up with CALS — July 1, 2020
Dean's Message — Big Win
CALS faculty and staff can do a little victory dance with the announcement of our success in landing a $10 million U.S. Department of Agriculture grant.
Led by Idaho Agricultural Experiment Station Director and U of I Distinguished Professor Mark McGuire, the new grant will put 21 U of I faculty researchers to work on topics important to Idaho agriculture over the next five years. CALS faculty from four departments and UI Extension will participate. The U of I College of Engineering is a key collaborator, too.
Students will benefit, too. The grant will fund 23 graduate students, 37 undergrads and four post-doctoral researchers. The project also will employ 10 field research assistants.
The grant from the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture focuses on dairy waste biproducts and addresses the overall sustainability of Idaho agriculture.
The project overall represents a major advance for the mission of the Idaho Center for Agriculture, Food and the Environment (CAFE). The lead news item below provides much more detail.
As dean, I believe this project offers some important lessons, and in some sense validation, for CALS’ and U of I’s future.
Perhaps at the top of that list is it confirms that this college and this university can compete. Anyone who thinks sports provide a window into character and hard work should try applying for competitive grant funding.
U of I stood toe-to-toe with top agricultural research institutions and our researchers’ scientific credentials and innovative approaches put them among the winners. Many are among the best funded and known universities nationwide.
The University of Maryland, College Park is on the list. It landed two of the nine projects funded. So is Michigan State, Minnesota, Iowa State and University of California, Riverside. Many of these institutions benefit from much larger state budgets funded by their state’s larger populations.
Here at U of I we do enjoy strong support from state leaders and agricultural industry partners, but our fortunes are limited by Idaho’s smaller population and economic base.
And yet, our team persevered. Our ideas and expertise addressed a critical need in the view of USDA reviewers. So let us take time to celebrate a little. Then we will go to work to prove we deserve that confidence is justified and to develop new, science-based strategies to support Idaho agriculture.
Michael P. Parrella
College of Agricultural and Life Sciences
By the Numbers
93% for potatoes, 91% for sugar beets, 87% for winter wheat, 82% for dry edible beans, 76% for spring wheat, 66% for barley: As June ended, Idaho’s major crops were mostly in good to excellent condition, the USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service reported. Onions were in good condition: 100%.
Our Stories — $10 M USDA Grant Funds Study
A team of U of I researchers has secured a $10 million U.S. Department of Agriculture – National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) grant to evaluate the use of bioproducts from dairy waste streams to enhance sustainability for all of Idaho agriculture and develop economic opportunities for the state’s dairy industry.
As the third-producing dairy state in the nation, Idaho’s dairy producers face major challenges in managing the manure that is generated with that ranking. This project will create useful bioproducts from dairy manure that can be transported and used in more distant areas for crop production or for value-added products such as plastics.
Mark McGuire, associate dean and director for the Idaho Agricultural Experiment Station, will lead the interdisciplinary effort that builds on existing research in the U of I’s Colleges of Agricultural and Life Sciences and Engineering.
The five-year project is titled “Creating a New Bioeconomy for Dairies to Increase Nutrient Recycling, Enhance Productivity of Crops & Stimulate Prosperity in Rural America.” It includes a team of agronomists, economists, animal scientists, engineers and soil and water experts.
The goal is to support dairy producers in adopting technologies and processes that transform nutrients extracted from dairy manure into alternatives for commercial fertilizers and other value-added bioproducts to improve soils, sustain agricultural productivity, reduce environmental impacts, provide alternative income streams and create employment opportunities.
Research will evaluate the effectiveness and economic value of these bioproducts used on different soil types and the various commodities grown in traditional southern Idaho crop rotations while exploring the potential for product commercialization.
“This project also presents a significant economic opportunity for the dairy industry,” McGuire said. “It’s not just selling the milk nutrients, which traditionally comprises 90% of a dairy’s revenue stream, but also selling the crop nutrients that will hopefully support the economic sustainability of the industry.”
The award emphasizes the importance of the U of I’s effort to establish the nation’s largest research dairy, the Idaho Center for Agriculture, Food and the Environment (CAFE), in Idaho’s Magic Valley, McGuire said.
“The grant is directly associated with why CAFE is needed,” McGuire said. “It is an assessment of how the dairy industry contributes to the sustainability of all agriculture.”
Research at CAFE will address constraints on water usage and environmental quality while supporting the agricultural sectors of the dairy, livestock, cropland and food processing industries and exploring solutions for long-term sustainability.
The CAFE research dairy is slated for completion in 2023. Research has already begun with an effort to collect more than 800 soil samples at the dairy site to establish an environmental baseline that will be utilized in this research.
The award is funded through NIFA’s Agriculture and Food Research Initiative’s (AFRI) Sustainable Agricultural Systems program. U of I is one of eight institutions nationwide to benefit from NIFA’s $90 million investment.
Other project leaders will include U of I researchers Erin Brooks, Mireille Chahine, Erik R. Coats, Aaron J. Johnson, Daniel G. Strawn, Michael S. Strickland and Olga Walsh.
This project, titled “Creating a New Bioeconomy for Dairies to increase Nutrient Recycling, Enhance Productivity of Crops & Stimulate Prosperity in Rural America,” is funded under the U.S. Department of Agriculture National Institute of Food and Agriculture grant No. 2020-69012-31871. The total project funding is $10 million of which 100% is the federal share.
Amalgamated Sugar Pledges to Parma Project
Idaho’s Amalgamated Sugar will contribute $500,000 to support planned improvements at the U of I Parma Research and Extension Center.
Sugar beets rank among Idaho’s top crops generating sales of $322 million in 2019. The sugar processing industry contributes 1.7% of Idaho’s Gross State Product. Amalgamated Sugar is the second largest beet sugar producer in the United States, and operates three plants located in Nampa, Twin Falls and Paul, Idaho.
“Amalgamated Sugar is extremely pleased to contribute to the advancement of the Parma Research and Extension Center,” said John McCreedy, president and CEO of Amalgamated Sugar. “For years, agriculture in the Northwest has benefited greatly from the high quality research performed at the facility. The investments in state-of-the-art plant and soil health facilities by the state of Idaho, University of Idaho and the private sector will continue the tradition of delivering top-notch agricultural research to all stakeholders.”
CALS plans a $7 million upgrade to its Parma center. The plan calls for Idaho’s agriculture industry to contribute $3 million to the project and for the state to match that total. The college will contribute the remaining $1 million to establish the Idaho Center for Plant and Soil Health. The new facility will include modernized laboratories and equipment to improve the Parma center’s capacity for cutting-edge research and attract talented scientists.
The Idaho State Board of Education recently approved a request by the college to proceed with planning and design for the project. The college will convene a steering committee of industry stakeholders to inform the design process. Current plans call for the center’s completion in 2023.
“This gift from one of Idaho agriculture’s top sectors is critical,” said CALS Dean Michael P. Parrella. “It shows sugar beet growers and processors are confident the Parma project will provide information to help keep the industry economically viable moving forward.”
The Amalgamated Sugar gift puts private fundraising over 80% of its goal.
“We’re still in the fundraising mode so having sugar beets and all these stakeholders, wine, onions, barley, hops and others contributing support makes it easier for the state to support the project. It becomes a matching situation rather than us just holding our hand out to the Legislature and asking for help. This major gift from the sugar beet industry accelerates the whole process,” Parrella said.
Further details about the Parma Research and Extension Center and related Idaho Center for Plant and Soil Health can be found at: https://www.uidaho.edu/cals/parma-research-and-extension-center/support.
Faces and Places
U of I President Scott Green captures the moment during a visit with Payette County's UI Extension Educator Joey Peutz in Payette. He also visited with UI Extension, Washington County employees Mary Ridout, Michelle Tate and Stephanie Butterfield in Weiser.
- July 7 — Virtual recap of June 30 U of I Snake River Weed Management trials: Aberdeen R&E Center via Zoom. Register online. 1 p.m. MDT.
- Aug. 1 — U of I–CALS Commencement at ASUI-Kibbie Activity Center. Processional 8 a.m., Ceremony 8:30 a.m.
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