Catching Up with CALS — July 29, 2020
Dean's Message — Better Together
Collaboration has been important to the success of the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences since its beginnings more than 130 years ago. Through the decades since its formal creation, the college has sought and embraced collaboration on campus and beyond.
CALS works with the College of Natural Resources to address the proper management of our timber and rangeland. We work with the College of Science to support the Center for Health in the Human Ecosystem and the Idaho IDeA Network of Biomedical Research Excellence (INBRE) biomedical program. Faculty in CALS, College of Law and the College of Natural Resources collaborate in the critical area of water resources.
We have worked with the College of Art and Architecture (CAA) on bioregional planning and look forward to a capstone class project in CAA that will provide a fresh perspective on the retail area of the Agri Beef Meat Science and Innovation Center Honoring Ron Richard. Our family and consumer sciences and agricultural and extension education faculty work with College of Education, Health and Human Services colleagues to educate and certify teachers.
Growing cooperation marks an important partnership with the College of Business and Economics and the Barker Trading Program. CALS agricultural economics students participate in the program because understanding markets is critical. The expanding interest in agricultural risk management with strong support from the Idaho Wheat Commission will strengthen ties between the colleges.
Nothing increases collaboration like new investment. A recent example is the new $10 million USDA grant to develop a new bioeconomy for the dairy industry involving the College of Engineering faculty and a score of CALS faculty.
Last week, CALS sponsored a meeting to launch the engineering and design work on the research dairy that will form a core of the Idaho Center for Food, Agriculture and the Environment (CAFE).
The meeting drew representatives from Idaho contractors who will do that work, Boise-based McAlvain Construction and Keller Associates with offices in several Idaho cities. Their work will carry significant economic impact and begin transforming CAFE into reality.
A strong online turnout from deans and administrators across campus showed welcome interest in the project. The 50 or more people present or online demonstrated the collaborative nature of CAFE.
The College of Engineering’s Associate Dean John Crepeau asked about whether the CAFE contractors would be available to talk to students about their work on the project. Leaders of both firms embraced the idea and noted they are themselves Vandal alumni, Vandal parents or employ alumni.
Although CALS has done the heavy lifting to forge and maintain external partnerships that are critical to CAFE, we do so in anticipation of broader collaboration both on campus and off. All must remember that it is formally called Idaho CAFE, reflecting the fact that this is a U of I initiative.
The reality is that a deeply interconnected industry like agriculture gains strength through diverse skills. Agriculture needs lawyers who are expert in water rights. It needs mechanical engineers to design buildings and electrical engineers to design sensor arrays and computer engineers to create robotic milking systems.
We have welcomed Brigham Young University – Idaho and the College of Southern Idaho to help U of I make Idaho CAFE stronger. The same message holds for Idaho’s public universities. We would hope the same collaborative spirit that created Idaho INBRE and the Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR) can be used as a model for a successful CAFE.
That is the message we in CALS have tried to emphasize: Without collaboration and partnerships we are less capable of serving agriculture and the state.
Michael P. Parrella
College of Agricultural and Life Sciences
By the Numbers
13% of Idaho’s winter wheat was harvested and 1% of spring wheat was in the grain bin by Sunday, July 26, according to the USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service. Hot weather blanketed the state and pushed crops along toward maturity. 60% of the second cutting of alfalfa and 2% of the third cutting was completed. 98% of spring wheat, 97% of barley and 98% of oats were headed.
Our Stories — Heritage Orchard Conference Goes Online
More than 150 people, including residents of Canada and New Zealand, registered during the first week since word began to circulate about the nine-month series of webinars. The virtual conference is presented by the U of I.
Much of the early interest reflects the social media influence and thousands of contacts of conference committee members, U of I Sandpoint Organic Agriculture Center manager Kyle Nagy said.
On Aug. 19 at 10 a.m. Pacific Time, the first of the free webinars will feature “Sleuthing for Lost Apples: Lessons from the Experts.” The experts include Spokane-based David Benscoter of The Lost Apple Project and John Bunker of the Maine Heritage Orchard with Nagy moderating.
The series will draw university researchers, orchardists, hobbyists and others. Speakers will include experts from Idaho, California, Washington, Oregon, Maine, Wyoming, Wisconsin, Colorado and Montana who will present on Zoom.
More information about the conference and registration is available online.
Benscoter presented the keynote presentation for the first Heritage Orchard Conference in May 2019 at the U of I Sandpoint center. He and E.J. Brandt of Troy, Idaho, have worked together and with other apple sleuths for several years in search of apple varieties thought lost to history.
The Lost Apple Project of the Whitman County Historical Society reflects the Inland Northwest’s early status as a proving ground for hundreds of apple varieties from around the world.
CALS became involved when it created the Sandpoint Organic Agriculture Center in 2018 after it acquired the Sandpoint Orchard through a donation from Dennis Pence and his family.
The orchard employs organic agriculture methods to produce 68 variety of apples and raspberries, apricots, pears, plums and cherries.
The orchard’s selection offers just a taste of the 15,000 named apple varieties known from historical records across North America. Some 3,000 varieties remain in production today.
Many heritage apple varieties fell from favor among orchardists because they were difficult to ship or store. Some fell victim to market fads as orchardists tore out old favorites for new hot sellers.
The original plan for the 2020 Heritage Orchard Conference was to hold it in late October or early November as the apple harvest ended. “We wanted to invite people to bring in favorite apples for a big tasting,” he said.
Then the COVID-19 pandemic hit, and the conference organizing committee shifted to accommodate the new reality.
The nine webinars are planned monthly through April. They will feature sessions about apple identification using DNA; apples and their uses — past and present; the histories of apples and people behind them; community-based apple conservation efforts; restoration pruning; grafting techniques; and perennial fruits of California’s Northern Sierra Gold Rush era.
CAFE Launch Meeting Introduces Research Dairy Contractors
Flexibility for the next 30 to 50 years in design and operation must guide the creation of the nation’s largest research dairy, University of Idaho officials say.
The Idaho Center for Agriculture Food and the Environment or CAFE took a major step forward this spring with the launch of design and planning for a $22.5 million research dairy near Rupert. The dairy is scheduled for completion in 2023 and to begin milking cows by 2024.
The CAFE launch meeting gathered U of I and design and engineering company leaders. The July 23 session drew nearly 50 people online and in person. Administrators, including the vice president of research and economic development, attended. So did deans of U of I’s colleges of graduate studies; law; art and architecture; engineering; letters, arts and social sciences; business and economics; and libraries.
The two lead contractors are McAlvain Construction of Boise and Keller Associates with offices in several Idaho cities. McAlvain will serve as general contractor and formed a team that includes Standley and Co. and Mike Roth, a longtime dairy producer. Keller’s team includes AgProfessionals and Lombard Conrad Architects.
Leaders of both companies said their longstanding ties to the state and the university give them the expertise to tackle the project.
The dairy will house 2,000 cows and allow researchers to better integrate animal and plant agriculture, said CALS Dean Michael Parrella.
“The project really represents a research dairy and a related demonstration farm that will be a 30- to 50-year experiment to look at sustainability and regenerative agriculture,” Parrella said.
The research dairy and its related farm will be able to address the connection between plant and animal agriculture, Parrella said. The 640-acre site near Rupert will be among the best equipped sites in the nation to find solutions.
A $10 million U.S. Department of Agriculture research grant announced earlier in July will fund projects by 21 U of I faculty in agriculture and engineering to explore the bioeconomy created by the dairy industry.
“There may be a time when the water and the nutrients from dairies will be worth as much as the milk they produce,” said Mark McGuire, CALS associate dean for research and university distinguished professor. He leads the USDA project and serves as Idaho Agricultural Experiment Station director.
A dairy scientist, McGuire said the key to successfully designing the new research dairy will require flexibility to adapt as the agricultural industry changes and science evolves. Another need — gathering electronic data — will require innovative thinking.
Idaho legislators provided $10 million in state funds to match private funding raised by the university, and have discussed adding another $5 million. U of I is leading the project’s creation, but Idaho CAFE is a statewide initiative, Parrella said.
The dairy is the largest of four components that make up the center. It includes a discovery center and offices near Jerome and expanded food processing research and education in collaboration with the College of Southern Idaho in Twin Falls.
U of I also invited collaboration with Brigham Young University – Idaho with its strong agriculture program and is reaching out to Idaho’s other public universities.
Faces and Places
UI Extension educator Lance Ellis in Fremont County writes the “In the Garden Column” for the East Idaho News website and encountered a different kind of viral recently. His column, "The Secret to Mowing a Perfect Lawn," drew 79,000 reads.
- Aug. 19 — "Sleuthing for Lost Apples, Lessons from the Experts," Heritage Orchard Conference, 10-11:30 a.m. PDT
- Aug. 24 — U of I Fall semester classes begin
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