CALS Research Advances

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

The Experiment Station's work represents scientists in 15 departments and 25 centers, institutes and intiatives. Their work primarily focuses on areas in the College of Agriculture and LIfe Sciences, but the Experiment Station also supports research in other colleges at Iowa State 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

Professor Tom Brumm and student in lab with grain in transparent cylinder. Tom Brumm, associate professor of agricultural and biosystems engineering, helps farmers in Uganda keep more of their crops by researching and implementing ways to reduce post-harvest losses. Ugandan farmers lose as much as a third of their crops to insects, mold and other pests. Poor storage of maize produces aflatoxin that causes illness in those who eat it. According to Brumm, the food supply in Uganda could be increased by 20 to 30 percent without special seed or fertilizer or mechanization by improving post-harvest grain handling. For example, by sealing maize in air-tight containers that eventually suffocate weevils in the grain.

Dekkers and TuggleAnimal Science professors Jack Dekkers, Chris Tuggle and other colleagues discovered the first naturally occurring pigs without a functioning immune system and are developing a line of pigs uniquely suited to testing medical therapies for people, with support from a $2.5 million National Institutes of Health grant. Their work was highlighted in the 2019 report issued by the Supporters of Agricultural Research (SoAR) Foundation and 20 FedByScience research institutions,  Retaking the Field: Science Breakthroughs for Thriving Farms and a Healthier Nation.

Anna WolcResearch applying advances in the field of genomics is transforming the poultry industry, thanks to scientists like Anna Wolc, an Iowa State faculty member and genomics geneticist for Hy-Line International, an Iowa company recognized as a world leader in poultry genetics. The company donates part of Wolc’s time to the university for research and teaching in a first-of-its-kind partnership. A research article by Wolc and colleagues in the peer-reviewed Journal of Animal Science was honored with a prestigious American Egg Board Research Award presented by the Poultry Science Association.

STRIPS LogoResearchers showed that converting 10 percent of a row-cropped field to strategically placed prairie strips kept soil in place, improved soil quality, enhanced wildlife habitat and dramatically reduced nitrogen and phosphorus loss. The Science-based Trials of Row-crops Integrated with Prairie Strips (STRIPS) project could be used on 9.6 million acres of cropland in Iowa and a large portion of the 170 million acres under similar management in the United States. STRIPS lead researcher Lisa Schulte-Moore discusses some of the implications of this work for Iowa farmers and American eaters in an article in The Conversation