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 scientific leadership. 

The Experiment Station's work represents 15 departments and 25 centers, institutes and initiatives, also supporting research in other ISU colleges and cooperating with scientists in other states and countries working with us on critical problems.

CALS Research Strengths

CALS ranks first out of 60 agricultural colleges for the number of faculty with federal research grants and second for the total number of federal grants, according to a recent Academic Analytics comparison (Aug. 11, 2020). It also ranked second nationally for the number of faculty publishing findings in scientific journals. 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


Research Highlights

CALS researchers named 2020 AAAS Fellows
Six Iowa State researchers have been named to this year’s class of 489 AAAS Fellows “because of their scientifically or socially distinguished efforts to advance science or its applications.” They include, from the College of Agriculture & Life Sciences, Basil J. Nikolau, the Frances M. Craig Professor of biochemistry, biophysics and molecular biology, director of the Center for Metabolic Biology and director of the W.M. Keck Metabolomics Research Laboratory, and Kan Wang, the Global Professor in Biotechnology in the department of agronomy and co-director of the Crop Bioengineering Center. More

CALS projects awarded COVID-19 seed grants 
ISU's Office of the Vice President for Research has selected seven high-impact projects to receive institutional funding through a new seed program dedicated to addressing the coronavirus outbreak. CALS faculty whose projects will receive funding are Walter Moss, biophysics, biochemistry and molecular biology, and Allen Miller, plant pathology and microbiology (with Cathy Miller, veterinary microbiology and preventative medicine), for their proposal “Analysis and Therapeutic Targeting of the SARS-CoV-2 Frameshift Element"; and Marit Nilsen-Hamilton, biophysics, biochemistry and molecular biology (with Pranav Shrotriya, mechanical engineering), for their proposal “Point-of-Care Sensors for Rapid and Low-Cost Detection of COVID-19 Infections.” More.

Field of sorghumResearch explores gene editing potential for sorghum, switchgrass
A new project supported by a two-year, $300,000 grant from the USDA Agriculture and Food Research Initiative, will explore the potential to employ viruses to overcome the usual tissue culture barriers that impede gene editing in sorghum and switchgrass. The research is being led by Steve Whitham, a professor in plant pathology and microbiology at Iowa State University, along with co-investigators Maria Salas-Fernandez, associate professor in agronomy, and Shuizhang Fei, professor of horticulture. 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. An October 2020 Successful Farming article highlights C-CHANGE's Grass to Gas initiative.

Current CALS Research News

Angela Shaw Receives Kolmer Award for Excellence in Applied Research

Iowa State Researchers Find Biochar Mitigates Manure-related Odors and Emissions

Picture of downtown, Carroll, Iowa

Which Small Towns Attract Start-ups and Why

Educational infographic showing a large, white chicken head and text

Iowa Egg Council pledges additional support to the Robert T. Hamilton Poultry Teaching and Research Farm at Iowa State University