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 through basic science and its application in the fields of agronomy, animal science, food safety, ecology, plant pathology and the social sciences, building on 130 years of leadership. The Experiment Station's work represents 15 departments and 32 centers, institutes and initiatives, and also supports research in other ISU colleges and in cooperation with scientists in other states and countries.

CALS Research Strengths

CALS ranks first out of 60 agricultural colleges for the number of faculty with federal research grants and third for the total number of federal grants, according to Academic Analytics comparisons (Feb 1, 2020). It also ranked second nationally for the number of faculty publishing findings in scientific journals.

Nearly $56 million in external funding was received by CALS/Agricultural Experiment Station-supported faculty and staff in the fiscal year ending June 30, 2020. Nearly 65 percent of the funding came from federal agencies. Over the past five years, CALS has brought in $275 million in external funding, averaging more than $55 million per year. 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 (FY2020).
  • CALS and the Experiment Station received the largest share of royalty income at Iowa State for the last five fiscal years.
  • Nine of the top 20 income-producing technologies at Iowa State came from research in CALS and the Experiment Station in the last two years. 

How our Research is Funded


Research Highlights

Researchers Using Hair to Gauge Stress Response in Pigs
Animal science researchers at Iowa State are trying to find out if trimming pigs’ hair can provide insight into how they respond to stressors they encounter through life, including disease. The intent is to use hair samples to identify genetics that allow pigs to respond favorably to a wide range of stressful situations. Jack Dekkers, animal science and principle investigator, said stress response and disease response are closely related, and identifying genetics that are more resilient to stress will likely also be more resilient to disease. More 

Map of Midwest corn experiments.FFAR Awards $2 million for Sustainable Corn Research
The Foundation for Food & Agriculture Research has awarded a $2,044,214 grant to Iowa State University to evaluate how maize breeding, field management and environment affect sustainable corn production. Led by Sotirios Archontoulis, associate professor of agronomy, the project will examine corn hybrid characteristics at an unprecedented scale to analyze yield trends in the U.S. Corn Belt. The project represents a $4,089,857 total investment, with additional funding from Iowa State, Bayer Crop Science, the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture and others. More. 

CALS agronomists help lead COALESCE 
Iowa State University faculty in mechanical engineering and agronomy are part of the research team on the COALESCE – COntext Aware LEarning for Sustainable CybEr-agricultural systems, project, which is receiving a five-year $7 million Cyber-Physical Systems Award from the National Science Foundation and the U.S. Department of Agriculture's National Institute of Food and Agriculture. More.

C-CHANGE seeks to create new options for farms
A new $10 million federal grant is supporting a research team led by Iowa State University with Penn State and Roeslein Alternative Energy, to develop new methods of turning biomass and manure into fuel. The five-year grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute for Food and Agriculture will power the Consortium for Cultivating Human and Natural reGenerative Enterprise (C-CHANGE) as it works to create new value chains on U.S. farms, with emphasis on the generation of renewable natural gas, improved rural economic outcomes and protection of the environment. 

Current CALS Research News

Keith Vorst sitting on a stool in a laboratory.

New study calls for mitigation, monitoring of common grease-proofing food packaging chemicals

banner graphic with headshots of six researchers, their names and departments

Iowa Soybean Research Center funds four Iowa State research projects

Wendong Zhang and former Iowa Governor Terry Branstad in front of PPT projection

Mutual interests in agricultural collaboration focus of U.S. – China policy paper by Iowa State University economist

Soybeans ready to harvest backlit by morning light

Innvictis/Simplot partners with Iowa Soybean Research Center at Iowa State University