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

Side-by-side headshots of Basil Nikolau and Kan WangCALS Scientists Named AAAS Fellows
College of Agriculture and Life Sciences faculty Basil Nikolau and Kan Wang are among six Iowa State University researchers named by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) to its class of 2020 Fellows for “distinguished efforts to advance science or its applications.” 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.

Research predicting corn traits
Jianming Yu, a professor of agronomy at Iowa State University and the Pioneer Distinguished Chair in Maize Breeding, and colleagues have published an article in the Plant Biotechnology Journal that details their latest efforts to predict traits in corn based on genomics and data analytics, helping make sense of the seemingly endless amount of genetic stocks contained in the world’s seed banks. 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

Illustration showing drainage water recycling system with overhead pivot irrigation and reservoir

Emerging drainage water recycling practice could improve yields, water quality


Iowa Nutrient Research Center seeks new water quality research proposals

Iowa State researchers study effects of cellulosic feedstocks for ethanol production

Warren Rouse headshot

Iowa State Student Selected for NIH Fellowship to Expand the Druggable Human Genome