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College of Agricultural & Life Sciences

Physical Address:
E. J. Iddings Agricultural Science Laboratory, Room 52
606 S Rayburn St

Mailing Address:
875 Perimeter Drive MS 2331
Moscow, ID 83844-2331

Phone: 208-885-6681

Fax: 208-885-6654



Catching Up with CALS — May 29, 2019

Dean's Message — Busy Summer

It’s summer and people are on the move to enjoy opportunities to visit new and familiar places, and to learn more about Idaho.

CALS was pleased to host the Idaho Legislatures Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee at the Parma Research and Extension Center earlier this month. Committee members accepted our invitation made during the January budget-setting process to explore the station and see our faculty’s needs firsthand.

We laid out our plans to modernize the station’s facilities to help us retain accomplished researchers and recruit top new candidates.

The $7 million project will rebuild the station to enhance laboratory and office spaces. Of the total, $3 million will come from the agriculture industry, $3 million from state funding and $1 million from the college.

As we should expect, JFAC members asked some probing questions and listened carefully. They also visited the labs of Saad Hafez, Essie Fallahi and James Woodhall to see and hear how their work serves Idaho agriculture.CALS nematologist Saad Hafez focuses in on a nematode during a tour of his lab at the Parma Research and Extension Center by members of the Idaho Legislature's Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee.

It’s worth noting that Parma researchers Hafez, Fallahi and Mike Thornton have all received governor’s excellence awards for their outstanding work on behalf of Idaho’s largest industry.

With June only days away, I also look forward to visiting Rinker Rock Creek Ranch with College of Natural Resources Dean Dennis Becker on June 1 for the first Sagebrush Saturday event there of the season.

Tours and a community barbecue will give us the chance to connect with a broad cross-section of the community. We will get a chance to tell people more about our plans for the ranch and hear about their hopes for our work there.

CALS is also shifting into its third Summer of Science series of children’s programs at the Moscow Farmers Market on June 1. Our tent is in a new location along Fifth Street next to the Storm Cellar and the Moscow Co-op parking lot.

Season three starts with a new tasty, fun and nutritious food challenge for children led by Hydee Becker. She presided over last season’s opening session, a chocolate chip cookie taste-off. It was among the most popular programs of the season.

She is director of dietetics, clinical assistant professor in the Margaret Ritchie School of Family and Consumer Sciences and, I should note, married to Dennis.

Family and Consumer Sciences Director Shelley McGuire liked what she’s seen during CALS’ first two seasons at the market that FCS is sponsoring a booth next to CALS this summer. Grad student Beth Ropski, a credentialed high school teacher, will lead that effort.

Although Summer of Science programs rank as our highest visibility and most energetic, CALS and FCS crews began giving Moscow Farmers Market goers samples of U of I programs when the market’s season started May 4.

So far the Plant and Soil Science Club and Soil Stewards sold bedding and vegetable plants. Jenny Durrin of the Seed Potato Germplasm program demonstrated hydroponic potato production and UI Extension-trained Idaho Master Gardeners offered help with questions.

When the children’s programs wind down at the end of August, CALS plans to keep its outreach efforts going through the end of October. It is CALS’ effort to bridge the 10 blocks between college and community with our faculty, staff and students who help make Moscow a great place.

Michael P Parrella, dean of the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences

Michael P. Parrella

College of Agricultural and Life Sciences

By the Numbers

100 percent of Idaho topsoil showed adequate to surplus moisture through May 26, the USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service reported. That’s generally good news for pasture, range and crop conditions where 85 percent were rated in good to excellent condition, 13 percent in fair condition and 2 percent in poor condition. With mid-May temperatures averaging 2 to 9 degrees below normal and precipitation totals since Sept. 1 ranging from slightly above to more than 30 inches above normal across most of Idaho, the growing season is off to a slower start. Although spring wheat planting is nearly on par with the 5-year average, only 66 percent is up, down a quarter from the average. About 10 percent of winter wheat is headed, less than half the 5-year average. 9 percent of farmers reported making their first cutting of alfalfa, less than half the average. Potato planting lags slightly at 88 percent compared to 95 percent; 30 percent of plants are up, two-thirds the average 44 percent.

Our Stories — CALS Tech Cleans Drain Water

Much like waters across the United States from the Everglades westward, the North Alkali Drain near Parma needs some help.CALS researchers,from left, Dan Strawn, Liam Knudsen and Martin Baker ignore a rain squall to watch as biochar enters a filter on the U of I Clean Water Machine.

High phosphorus and nitrate levels, warmer temperatures and silt make it susceptible to algae blooms and a host of other changes that impair historic uses.

Like other Boise River waters throughout the Treasure Valley, the drain carries more nutrients and sediment than it once did. Growing pressure to protect water quality mean changes ahead.

The North Alkali Drain provided a test site in early May for the U of I Clean Water Machine. The CALS team of mechanical engineer Martin Baker and science technician Liam Knudsen set up the trailer-mounted water treatment equipment there early in May. Soil scientist and team member Dan Strawn visited the site during the testing to get more perspective on the site and the science.

Unlike many other Idaho streams and lakes that are challenged by changes caused by agriculture, cities, subdivisions and other developments, agricultural drains are the focus of substantial intervention to improve water quality.

Idaho Clean Water Partners developed a one-acre settling pond and engineered wetland to capture a substantial share of the sediment and nutrients flowing down the drain toward the nearby Snake River.

The partners, Doug Jones, a former Idaho legislator; Hal Anderson and Dave Tuthill, both retired Idaho Water Resources Department officials; and Rob Tiedemann, an ecological design consultant; and others, spearheaded the project as a test of biological treatment possibilities.

Water pumped from the drain into the wetland slows enough for silt to settle out. A variety of wetland plants from cattails to willows take up the phosphorus and nitrogen to produce roots, stems and leaves.

Long-term, the partners plan to dredge the settling basin to recover tons of sediment and harvest the vegetation to process for compost or animal bedding.

The wetland’s results are promising, capturing substantial quantities of silt and nutrients. The results also show that a more technological approach may be needed to fully meet clean water standards.

A widespread interest in a technological approach to recover phosphorus and other nutrients led the CALS team to nearly four months of cold weather testing in Ontario, Canada.

Overseen by Baker and environmental chemist Greg Moller, whose inventions underpin much of the machine’s design, the Ontario testing proved the U of I approach could treat agricultural waters to remove nutrients to meet regulatory threshholds.

The Canadian testing was organized by the Everglades Foundation through its $10 million George Barley Water Prize competition. The Idaho team’s success there was promising enough to earn an invitation to the competition’s final phase next year near Orlando, Florida. The U of I researchers are unsure whether they will compete there, however, because of the financial requirements and other factors.

The North Alkali Drain project provided the chance to test automation changes to the Clean Water Machine funded by the M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust of Portland.

The North Alkali Drain work also advanced a project funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture to test the use of biochar in water treatment. Its goal is to apply recovered nutrients to soils to recycle them.

Food Science Students Turn Treats into Trip

A bright orange tent at the Moscow Renaissance Fair stocked with popcorn balls, cake skewers and rice cereal treats in early May paved the way for a student-faculty road trip through southern Idaho’s food processing industry to a professional dairy conference.U of I and WSU School of Food Science students from professor Helen Joyner's laboratory take a break for a selfie during a bake sale under a bright orange canopy at the Moscow Renaissance Fair in early April. The sale funded the group's May field trip to the BUILD dairy annual meeting and tours of food processing plants in mid May.

Students in food science professor Helen Joyner’s laboratory sold sweet snacks at the popular Moscow event to fund the trip to the BUILD, or Building University-Industry linkages through Learning and Discovery, Dairy annual meeting in Utah May 21-22.

The meeting encourages networking and professional development among students, professors and dairy industry professionals.

Along the way to the Western Dairy Center at Utah State University in Logan and back again, the students toured six food processing companies and research facilities.

The tour itinerary included Idaho dairy processing companies including Glanbia, Lactalis, Idaho Milk Products, Chobani, High Desert Milk and Darigold.

Joyner’s students work on dairy research projects and most plan to pursue careers in dairy foods after graduation. The conference, which highlights student research presentations, provides valuable professional development experience, she said.

Professional development is a key component of the BUILD program, Joyner said. Students are encouraged to become involved in dairy-based food product development, take on leadership roles in extracurricular activities and present their work at food and dairy science meetings and conferences.

Joyner’s lab also will participate in CALS Summer of Science program at the Moscow Farmers Market for elementary-age children June 8.

The food science students will collaborate with an activity developed by the Idaho Farm Bureau that encourages children to grind wheat into flour, then explore how different flours have different characteristics.

Kids' Science Fun Starts at Farmers Market

The CALS Summer of Science schedule begins its third season Saturday, June 1, at the Moscow Farmers Market with a variation on last summer’s kickoff.Margaret Ritchie School of Family and Consumer Sciences helps children tie dye T-shirts at the school's tent at the Moscow Farmers Market on May 11.

Hydee Becker, head of dietetics for the Margaret Ritchie School of Family and Consumer Sciences, will lead off the program series with a mini-muffin taste test to help children learn about what’s in healthy foods.

The CALS tent’s location changed this season to Fifth Street adjacent to the Storm Cellar and the Moscow Food Co-op’s parking lot.

Another major change is the addition of a booth sponsored by the Margaret Ritchie School of Family and Consumer Sciences and operated by FCS graduate student Beth Ropski.

The CALS tent operates throughout the market season from May through October. During May, the programs were mostly garden-focused. CALS students participating in the Plant and Soil Science Club and Soil Stewards sold bedding and vegetable plants to help fund student trips. Seed Potato Germplasm Program director Jenny Durrin also demonstrated virus-free, hydroponic production.

UI Extension, Latah County Idaho Master Gardeners also plan to offer gardening and landscaping advice the first and third Saturdays of each month from the CALS tent.

Other programs will range from kinetic exercises to grind wheat into flour and different flours’ physical properties with food science professor Helen Joyner on June 8 through July and August with sessions on Idaho butterflies, 4-H sewing, how dairy cows make milk and how yeast helps make favorite foods.

The Summer of Science programs are focused on elementary school-age children. The Idaho Farm Bureau is providing support for three of the programs including those on wheat and milk and another on water quality.

During the two previous summer seasons at the Moscow Farmers Market, the three months of children’s programs drew more than 1,000 visits to the CALS tent near Friendship Square.

This summer's schedule of activities includes:

  • June 1 — Tasty and healthy — Take the mini-muffin challenge.
  • June 8 — Wheat to flour — Grind wheat into flour and feel protein’s effects.
  • June 15 — Fabric dyeing — Learn how dyes and cloth work together.
  • June 22 — Healthy Soil — Find out about the itsy bitsy critters under our feet.
  • June 29— Idaho butterflies — See some common local butterflies.
  • July 6— Ag Wheel of Fortune — Spin and see if you win.
  • July 13 — Clean Water — Try your hand at keeping water clean.
  • July 20 — DNA Today — Smoosh some strawberries to find DNA.
  • July 27 — Sew what? — Make a 4-H project of your own to take home.
  • Aug. 3 — What bug is that? — Hi-tech makes it faster and easier to tell bugs apart.
  • Aug. 10 — Cows and milking — Learn how cows make milk and try milking a calm cow.
  • Aug. 17 — One plant, then many — Make plant copies to take home and grow.
  • Aug. 24 — Fun with Food — Discover what do kids eat and why good food counts.
  • Aug. 31 — Rise up with yeast — See why yeast plays a big role in our favorite foods.

Faces and Places

Plant sciences graduate student Rocio Silvestre will receive the International Peace Scholarship from PEO International to help support her studies with professor Joe Kuhl. She previously worked for the International Potato Center in Lima, Peru.

CALS students were on teams that took home cash prizes during the annual Idaho Pitch and Startup Vandal competitions hosted by U of I’s College of Business and Economics. CALS’ Bishal Thapa of Jharuwarasi, Nepal, was on the GCSP Trash2Gas team that tied for first place in the Startup Vandal Technology Track. The team won $4,250 for a curriculum to teach middle and high school students about sustainable practices and waste management. The group also won third place and $600 in the Idaho Pitch competition. CALS’ Brady Wonenberg of Moscow was on The HayTech team that took second and $3,500 with its Bale Performance Monitor in the Startup Vandal New Products Track. CALS’ Emelia Millican of Gooding and Carli Erstrom of Vale, Oregon, were on the Vandal Mobile Press team that tied for third and won $1,500.


  • May 312019 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, Registration 8:30 a.m. Tour 8:45 a.m. to 1 p.m.
  • June 27 — Northern Idaho Collaborative Field Day sponsored by U of I, CHS Primeland and Limagrain Cereal Seeds, Nez Perce County Fairgrounds, 1229 Burrell Ave., Lewiston. 8:30 a.m.

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College of Agricultural & Life Sciences

Physical Address:
E. J. Iddings Agricultural Science Laboratory, Room 52
606 S Rayburn St

Mailing Address:
875 Perimeter Drive MS 2331
Moscow, ID 83844-2331

Phone: 208-885-6681

Fax: 208-885-6654