Catching Up with CALS — July 15, 2020
Dean's Message — Food Science
In recent news, Anheuser-Busch announced it will contribute $200,000 to agronomy research tied to our Idaho Center for Agriculture, Food and the Environment (CAFE).
Anheuser-Busch is in the business of producing the best beer and other beverages it can to meet its customers' tastes. Good beer starts with good barley, and good barley starts with farmers who have access to the best science and an ideal location for production.
And earlier this summer, the Idaho State Board of Education put its stamp of approval on our plan to merge our food science programs with the department of animal and veterinary science which became official on July 1.
CALS’ internal reorganization makes a lot of sense when you consider that both departments have a lot to do with what is on our tables. When one thinks of Idaho agriculture — dairy and beef production are always front and center.
Many of the crops grown across southern Idaho either directly relate to animal agriculture — think hay and corn — or the nutrients the animals produce.
The new Department of Animal, Veterinary and Food Sciences (AVFS) will help expand opportunities for CALS research, outreach and teaching efforts.
A prime example is offered by the Chobani Scholars program. As a major food processor, the company just funded its second group of incoming freshmen. None of them plan to major in food science, but all of them will study topics critical to the company’s future: animal science and agricultural business.
Most of the eight Chobani scholars selected so far plan to work in some aspect of the dairy industry, producing the essential raw material the company turned into its leading product that made it a household name.
This move also brings our meat scientists under the food science umbrella — and that is only the beginning as there are many opportunities to enhance the interdisciplinary nature of the program. For example, there are additional faculty across CALS and other colleges who work in areas that could be connected to food science like nutrition and dietetics, engineering and water quality.
By combining the efforts of these diverse faculty, food science stands to become an area of excellence for the university. In addition, there are faculty at other colleges across Idaho including the College of Southern Idaho, Brigham Young University – Idaho and College of Western Idaho that we anticipate will be included as part of a larger statewide food science effort.
This move is just the beginning of allowing CALS and U of I to more effectively work across units to further food science teaching, research and outreach, and to connect to issues in Southern Idaho, the heart of the state’s burgeoning food processing industry.
Some food science alumni and friends may worry that the change will mean food science will become hidebound and focused only on animal products. I assure you that food science will continue to remain open to the discipline’s broad spectrum.
My personal hope is food science faculty will weigh in on the nutritional benefits of major Idaho commodities like dairy, beef, potatoes and wheat that I believe are unfairly vilified in the public realm at times.
Our goal is to expand opportunities for food science education, research and outreach. We believe the new department will do just that.
Michael P. Parrella
College of Agricultural and Life Sciences
By the Numbers
60.3 million bushels of Idaho winter wheat is the July 1 federal forecast this year. That’s a slight uptick from the USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service June 1 forecast. Harvested area is forecast at 670,000 acres, down 10,000 acres from 2019, but yield is expected at 90 bushels per acre, up 3 bushels from 2019. Idaho spring wheat production is forecast at 42.8 million bushels, up 9% from last year, with harvested area forecast at 510,000 acres, up 70,000 acres from 2019. Yield is forecast at 84 bushels per acre, down 5 bushels from 2019. Idaho barley production is forecast at 50.9 million bushels, down 6% from last year. Harvested area is forecast at 480,000 acres, down 40,000 acres from 2019. Yield is expected to be 106 bushels per acre, up 2 bushels from 2019.
Our Stories — AVFS Gathers Expertise
A move to better align U of I efforts with the state’s agricultural industry will combine animal, veterinary and food sciences research, education and outreach into one department.
The Idaho State Board of Education in June approved CALS’ proposal, which took effect July 1. Eight food science faculty members joined 22 animal and veterinary science faculty to expand collaborative efforts and establish the new Department of Animal, Veterinary and Food Sciences.
“Our efforts to expand our meat science education and research with the new Agri Beef Meat Science and Innovation Center Honoring Ron Richard and the comprehensive focus of the Idaho Center for Agriculture, Food and the Environment made the timing right for this move,” said Michael Parrella, CALS dean.
“Creating this new department adds momentum to our efforts to enhance student opportunities and research capacity. This will help us better serve Idaho and its modern agricultural industry,” Parrella said.
The change reflected a joint decision by U of I and Washington State University in January to dissolve the Bi-State School of Food Science. The move will allow each university to refocus on its state’s priorities.
Students at both universities will continue to take classes on both campuses in food science for their undergraduate and graduate studies. The cross-listed classes offer students access to the expertise of both schools, which are 8 miles apart.
The U of I decision will allow more focus on building stronger relationships with the College of Southern Idaho, College of Western Idaho and Brigham Young University – Idaho. Most of Idaho’s dairy, beef and food processing industry are in southern Idaho.
Idaho officials projected the realignment of faculty would improve opportunities for students. The proposal to merge departments set a goal of boosting enrollment in food science programs and external grant funding by 20%. The proposal also noted that the new department would operate with the same funding for faculty salaries and operating budget as before the move.
“Our animal and veterinary science faculty members and our food science colleagues voted overwhelmingly to form the new department,” department head Robert Collier said. Collier served as animal and veterinary science department head and will continue to lead the expanded department.
“Shifts in federal research funding that favors larger, more complex and multidisciplinary projects will give the expanded faculty more chances to find new approaches to solving key issues and training students,” Collier said.
Anheuser-Busch Donation Supports CAFE
The Anheuser-Busch Foundation announced July 8 it will donate $530,000 to support model farms at four land-grant universities to enhance environmental sustainability.
U of I, North Dakota State University, Montana State University and University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture will all receive funding for research that focuses on expanding innovative, sustainable agricultural practices.
The universities are creating model farms to test key research questions about soil health, irrigation efficiency and other regenerative practices, allowing research and learning opportunities that can result in tangible progress in the quest for sustainable agriculture.
Support for these programs aligns with Anheuser-Busch’s 2025 Sustainability Goals by promoting the testing and sharing of sustainable, regenerative practices in the brewer’s key growing regions. By focusing on water stewardship, rotations, cover cropping, tillage, soil health and other farming best-practice, this research will be used to positively impact not only farmers within these regions but those around the country.
“The work of land-grant universities is critical as we collectively look for ways to make farming more sustainable and profitable,” said Bill Bradley, Anheuser-Busch Foundation. “Our company’s commitment to farmers spans generations and it’s exciting to work with those that represent the next generation. The Anheuser-Busch Foundation is proud to work alongside these universities that are the backbone of agricultural extension support to our growers and we thank them for their longstanding efforts to help local agriculture communities thrive.”
The foundation’s Idaho donation will focus on the U of I-led effort to build the nation’s largest research dairy farm, Idaho CAFE, includes the Sustainable Water and Soil Health Demonstration Farm which will receive $200,000 to research rotations, cover crops and livestock integration at multiple sites including Anheuser-Busch-owned locations.
North Dakota State University and the North Dakota Barley Council will receive $150,000, Montana State University will receive $50,000 and the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture will receive $130,000.
“This partnership with the Anheuser-Busch Foundation will strengthen the assessment and demonstration of regenerative agricultural practices in Southern Idaho and beyond,” said Michael Parrella, CALS dean. “Learnings from this research will benefit our producers and partners around the region and we are grateful for the partnership.”
Tours and Field Days Move Online
CALS researchers and UI Extension specialists are moving online to conduct field days and communicate results of variety trials and other work to farmers and the public.
Potato cropping systems weed scientist Pamela Hutchinson held two sessions of the annual U of I Snake River Weed Management Tour at the Aberdeen Research and Extension Center. One followed the traditional model of bringing growers and others to the R&E center, and the other was virtual through Zoom.
Plans for the onsite tour hit a snag, she said, when unusually heavy rains in the days before the event caused the disruption. “It was just too muddy to go out into the field,” Hutchinson said.
To address concerns about the COVID-19 pandemic, Hutchinson had planned to accommodate the need for social distancing by using a larger sound system. That change proved helpful as part of the fallback plan.
“There were about 15 people there mostly from the local area, and we were still able to hold the field day in an open shed with enough space for everyone to spread out. The big new speaker helped everyone hear what we were talking about,” she said.
While preparing for the live version of the field day, Hutchinson also gathered video and photos for the virtual version planned a week later on July 7. That session drew more than 30 online participants.
Some technical glitches including videos that vanished after production made the event a challenge at times, but showed some potential advantages, too. The travel expenses and time for participants of live field days disappeared, too, a potentially significant savings.
Gathering video and photos for the virtual event helped her prepare for other events, like a future presentation for the Potato Association of America.
Others, including Moscow-based CALS agronomist Kurt Schroeder and UI Extension, Nez Perce County’s Doug Finkelnburg, recorded virtual field days for winter peas, forage production, cereal, pulse and soft white winter wheat trials. The sessions are posted online at https://www.uidaho.edu/extension/news/field-day.
Faces and Places
Animal scientist Pedram Rezamand was elected Secretary of the Production Division of the American Dairy Science Association to serve until 2021. He will then advance through the ranks to vice chair in 2022 and chair in 2023. He will serve on the Overall Program Committee as past chair in 2024. His service to the society brings recognition to the University of Idaho and AVFS in particular, said Bob Collier, animal, veterinary and food sciences department head.
- Aug. 24 — U of I fall semester classes begin
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