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 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

A new $10 million federal grant will allow a research team led by Iowa State University, 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. The project director on the transdisciplinary and multi-institutional grant is Lisa Schulte Moore, professor of natural resource ecology and management and associate director of the Bioeconomy Institute at Iowa State.

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.”

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. The report references several USDA-funded collaborations led by or involving researchers from Iowa State’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. More.

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.

Current CALS Research News

Horticulture Assistantships Allow Students to Get Their Hands Dirty in Pursuit of Science

Modeled image of viral RNA generated by Moss Lab ScanFold method.

Researcher Selected for Lilly Award to Refine Novel Method for Finding RNA Drug Targets

Man at podium in front of banner with lettering

Grant Supporting International Food Security Awarded to Iowa State University, Colorado State University

Iowa State University Block and Bridle Club Receives National Awards