Catching Up with CALS — March 25, 2020
Dean's Message — Doing the Job
Spring has finally arrived in Moscow with all of its promise for rebirth as the academic year approaches its final semester.
Normally this allows for a reset and stocktaking as faculty and students begin the final push to complete the year. However, as we all know, this year is different.
U of I President Scott Green may have said it best with his sign-off for his most recent Friday Letter when he closed with “Keep Calm and Vandal On.”
Our CALS foundation is agriculture, and that is exactly what we do. Come world war, pandemic or whatever else may be thrown in our path, farmers and ranchers continue to get the job done.
Cattle need to be fed and milked, crops must be planted and tended. To everything, there is a season.
And just like every season is different, with more snow, warmer or drier, we in agriculture go on with a sense of hope.
So it will be for the rest of this spring. We will miss the presence of students in Moscow, but education will continue. Our professors will keep students online to deliver the information they will need to continue their studies and pursue careers.
And this college, which is home to the Idaho Agricultural Experiment Station and UI Extension, will continue to conduct research by planting crops and tending livestock and extending that knowledge and practical information to residents.
How exactly our work will continue remains uncertain, the only thing that is certain is that we will meet the challenge and people’s needs. We will change and adapt just as families, farmers and ranchers do when plans change.
All of this must be done with the knowledge that everyone must take steps to flatten out the infection curve for COVID-19.
This may well be the greatest challenge that any of us have ever faced. I am convinced we will meet the challenge by following sound advice from health experts and leaders and through practical actions as simple as washing our hands, practicing social distancing and most importantly, providing support for one another that is the hallmark of the agricultural family.
Michael P. Parrella
College of Agricultural and Life Sciences
By the Numbers
Idaho's 2019 honey production at 2.94 million pounds fell 1% from 2018, the USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service reported. There were 92,000 honey producing colonies, 4,000 lower than the previous year. The yield per colony averaged 32 pounds, up 3.22% from 2018’s 31 pounds per colony. Even though Idaho's honey bees made more, beekeepers made less: honey production was worth $4.92 million in 2019, down 16% from 2018.
Our Stories — Couple, IPC Fund Potato Post
University of Idaho efforts to improve potato storage technology will benefit from a $1 million investment to create an endowed research professorship made possible by alumni Wayne and Peggy Thiessen and the Idaho Potato Commission.
The Wayne Thiessen Potato Research Professorship will honor Wayne’s career in Idaho’s potato industry and the Thiessens’ longtime support of their alma mater. The commission is matching the couple’s $500,000 donation to create the endowment.
“We realize the benefits in our lives, both personally and professionally, can be attributed to the education and experiences we have enjoyed through the U of I,” Wayne said. “We understand the importance of supporting educational and research efforts and are thankful for the opportunity to benefit the Idaho potato industry through this position.”
The Idaho Potato Commission voted in January to support the professorship, following a historic trend of investment in potato research at U of I.
The endowment establishes a new position for a faculty member in the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences who will focus on potato storage physiology, creating support for Idaho potato growers, processors and shippers. The endowment will support research needs and provide funding for graduate students.
“This position will be instrumental to all aspects of Idaho’s potato industry and will allow a better understanding of post-harvest storage and handling requirements for new and evolving potato varieties,” said Nick Blanksma, chairman for the Idaho Potato Commission.
“Being able to supply our consumers with a steady year-round supply of the highest quality potatoes is crucial to the Idaho potato industry’s success, and this position will help us to attain that goal.”
Idaho growers produce more potatoes than any other state. More than 80% of the crop is stored, and 60% is processed. Storage research seeks the best practices to preserve quality and prevent sprouting for a growing number of potato varieties.
U of I agricultural economists estimate the potato-based cash receipts and revenues totaled $1.1 billion in 2019.
“The generous support by the Thiessens and the Idaho Potato Commission shows the importance of the U of I potato research program to Idaho’s agricultural industry,” said Michael P. Parrella, College of Agricultural and Life Sciences dean. “We greatly appreciate the investment in our program, which will impact the potato industry for generations.”
A Lewiston native, Thiessen grew up on a wheat farm, then enrolled at U of I to study agriculture and soil science, earning bachelor’s and master’s degrees. He met Peggy, his wife of 57 years, at U of I while she was studying family and consumer sciences.
After graduating, the Thiessens spent two years near Chicago, then returned to Idaho where Wayne worked for University of Idaho Extension for several years. He joined Ore-Ida Foods and retired 22 years later as general manager of procurement.
Faces and Places
The Western Society of Weed Science named Traci Rauch, a CALS Department of Plant Sciences research associate, as a 2020 Fellow during its recent meeting. The society also recognized William J. Price, CALS statistical programs director, as an honorary member.
- April 9 — CALS Awards nominations closes at 5 p.m.
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