Catching Up with CALS — Sept. 18, 2019
Dean's Message — Go Idaho!
The Idaho Vandals’ trip to Penn State University was eye-opening in many ways. For our football team, the chance to play in front of 104,000 fans in the nation’s third largest stadium will no doubt become a lifelong memory.
For CALS leaders who traveled to State College, the visit offered memorable moments, too.
One was the chance to tailgate with 200 U of I alumni from 20 states and hear their stories.
The visit also allowed us to connect with Troy Ott, who served on the CALS faculty from 1998 to 2006. He helped design the Agricultural Biotechnology Laboratory and participated in major National Institutes of Health projects.
Ott now serves as a Penn State professor of reproductive physiology and associate director of the Huck Institutes of Life Sciences. The Huck Institute’s brand new multimillion-dollar facility underscored the opportunities available to a large, influential university with a large student enrollment.
U of I and CALS probably will never reach or even want to enroll 45,000 students and certainly Idaho does not want Pennsylvania’s large population, but Idaho’s agricultural industry can use all of the targeted, sophisticated research we can deliver.
In fact, we could note that Idaho outscored Pennsylvania in the dairy game, 1,355,000,000 to 832,000,000 pounds of milk in July and that our national ranking is No. 3 in dairy production. Go Idaho!
CALS leaders enjoyed another intersection with athletics in McCall last week during the annual Steer-A-Year banquet to honor the many individuals who donate cattle for the program.
Funds generated at Steer-A-Year are used primarily to support students in the Department of Animal and Veterinary Science, but a portion of the funds also support scholarships for student athletes. In recognition of this, the new U of I Athletic Director Terry Gawlik joined us for the dinner to share appreciation on behalf of the Vandal Scholarship Fund.
This is an example where CALS can partner with other programs on the U of I campus to the benefit of both.
Also at the Steer-A-Year event, we enjoyed hearing Idaho Cattle Association President Marty Gill strongly support our plans to upgrade our meat science and Vandal Brand Meats facility with the planned Agri Beef Meat Science and Innovation Center Honoring Ron Richard.
His message was consistent with his and his employer’s actions. Marty is employed by the Boise-based Agri Beef Co., which took a leadership role in supporting the $8 million project.
With nearly $5 million raised since our April launch, CALS can celebrate substantial progress. With $3 million more to go, we hope many more people who have a stake in Idaho’s $1 billion-plus beef industry will demonstrate their support.
Michael P. Parrella
College of Agricultural and Life Sciences
By the Numbers
10,000 more milk cows for a total of 620,000 head were inventoried on Idaho dairies through mid-July, the most recent USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service estimate show. Churning out a per-cow average of 2,185 pounds in July, 10 pounds more than in July, 2018, the Idaho herd yielded 1,355,000,000 pounds, a 2.1 percent increase from the previous year. Idaho iced the No. 3 spot in dairy production, surging past New York’s total by 67,000,000 pounds.
Our Stories — CALS-led Team Clones Wheat Gene
A CALS-led team of international researchers identified and cloned a gene that can fend off a major disease threat to wheat and barley. The fungus can cut yields by half or more during severe outbreaks.
The genetic advance promises to improve development of new wheat varieties that will produce more dependable yields and reduce the need for pesticides to combat the fungal disease, according to the report co-authored by 23 researchers and recently published in Nature Communications, a major scientific journal.
Stripe rust threatens production in major wheat producing regions in Australia, Canada, China, France, India, the U.S. and many other nations. The researchers work at U of I, Washington State University, University of California, Davis and two Chinese universities, Shandong Agricultural University and Sichuan Agricultural University.
Cloning, or copying, this gene took nearly 10 years, said Daolin Fu, a U of I wheat geneticist. Wheat researchers have identified 82 wheat stripe rust resistance genes, but the team’s success is only the eighth to be cloned.
The ability to copy the gene will allow wheat breeders to more selectively use it in developing new wheat and barley varieties.
The addition of the gene makes wheat more resistant to 11 races of stripe rust. Fu’s team successfully added the gene to U of I’s experimental wheat breeding lines.
The same gene also gave stripe rust resistance to a barley line, improving yield for producers, Fu said.
Wheat is the second most productive crop by weight, yielding 760 million tons, and provides 20 percent of the calories consumed by people worldwide.
Fu joined U of I faculty in 2016 after conducting research at Shandong University for China’s State Key Laboratory of Crop Biology in China and at University of California, Davis, with leading wheat scientist Jorge Dubcovsky.
The Idaho Wheat Commission supported Fu’s hiring at U of I through a novel agreement to harness the power of new genetic approaches to improving wheat production.
A copy of the stripe resistance gene report can be found online at https://www.nature.com/articles/s41467-019-11872-9.
Faces and Places
UI Extension Educator Gary Fornshell, specializes in aquaculture, received the Clark and Mimi White Distinguished Service Award, the highest award given by U.S. Trout Farmers Association to individuals who have worked unselfishly over the years to promote and serve trout aquaculture. He is only the second university person to receive this award.
- Oct. 4-5 — Celebrating Idaho Agriculture, keynote Dr. Tom Tomich, founding director of the Agricultural Sustainability Institute at University of California, Davis in the Vandal Ballroom, Bruce M. Pitman Center, 5:30-7 p.m.
- Oct. 4-6 — Ag Days, Moscow
- Oct. 15 — Seth Bordenstein, Vanderbilt University Microbiome Initiative director and associate professor of biology, will give the Center for Health in the Human Ecosystem annual research symposium plenary address in the U of I Administration Building Auditorium, 9-10 a.m.
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