CALS Research Advances

Researchers in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at Iowa State University’s Iowa Agriculture and Home Economics Experiment Station advance knowledge between basic science and its application in the fields of agronomy, animal science, food safety, ecology, plant pathology, the social sciences, building on 130 years of scientific leadership. 

The Experiment Station's work represents 15 departments and 25 centers, institutes and initiatives focused primarily on areas in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. The Experiment Station also supports research in other ISU colleges and cooperates with researchers in other states and countries working with us on critical problems.

CALS Research Strengths

CALS ranks at the top of 59 agricultural colleges nationally for the number of faculty publishing findings in scientific journals, according to a recent Academic Analytics comparison. It also ranked first for the number of faculty with federal research grants and second for the total number of federal grants. Over the past eight years, CALS-supported scientists have brought in $400 million in sponsored funding, approximately $50 million per year. (December 2017 data)

These discoveries and inventions frequently are patented and licensed for development into products and services:

  • Research by CALS faculty and staff account for 80 percent of Iowa State University's 377 active technology licensing and option agreements.
  • CALS and the Experiment Station received the largest share of royalty income at Iowa State for the last three fiscal years.
  • Nine of the top 20 income-producing technologies at Iowa State came from research in CALS and the Experiment Station.

How our Research is Funded

CALS Funding - Fiscal Year 2018

funding chart FY 2018

Research Highlights

CALS scientists Lamont, Beavis and RaoThree CALS researchers have received prestigious national honors for 2019. Two are named as 2019 fellows of the American Association for the Advancement of Science are Susan Lamont, Charles F. Curtiss Distinguished professor in Agriculture and Life Sciences in the Department of Animal Science, and  William Beavis, professor and the G.F. Sprague Chair in Agronomy. The National Academy of Inventors named Guru Rao, an associate vice president for research at Iowa State, as one of its 2019 fellows.

A new report “Innovation to Profit: A Retaking the Field Publication, volume 5”  from the SoAR/Supporters of Agricultural Research Foundation provides powerful examples of how federally funded agricultural research reduces producers' costs and risks, increases profits and lays the groundwork for new products and industries. More.

Asheesh (Danny) Singh, associate professor of agronomy at Iowa State Universit, is collaborating with fellow innovators, combining artificial intelligence and genetics to speed selection of crop varieties finely tuned to the needs of farmers now and in the future. In a "Scientific Reports" article “Machine Learning Approach for Prescriptive Plant Breeding” Singh and fellow researchers describe a new method that can enable computers to train themselves to develop better, smarter plant breeding models. A related study described in the journal “Plant Phenomics” discusses methods to fuse machine learning with techniques to identify optimal suites of observable characteristics for better breeding decisions and outcomes.

Professor Lisa Schulte Moore, natural resource ecology and management, has received the 2020 innovationENTREPRENEUR Award by the Des Moines Business Record and Ivy College of Business. Schulte Moore led development of the novel and strategic system, STRIPS/Science-Based Trials of Rowcrops Integrated with Prairie Strips, that integrates prairie strips into row crop landscapes. The practice, which can dramatically reduce soil loss and significantly improve water quality, is being adopted in Iowa and the nation after being added to the Conservation Reserve Program. Shulte Moore is featured in the 2020 innovationIOWA magazine and will be recognized at a virtual launch party May 21. More about the award. 

Current CALS Research News

Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy 2018-19 Annual Report Cover

Nutrient Reduction Strategy Annual Report Shows Record Conservation Engagement by Iowans

Economic Analysis Shows How ISU Soybean Trials Generate Value for Farmers

Soybean plant

Merschman Seeds Partners with Iowa Soybean Research Center at Iowa State University


Retired popcorn breeder keeps on poppin'