CALS Research Advances

Researchers in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at Iowa State University’s Ag 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 more than 130 years of leadership. 

The Experiment Station's work also supports research in other ISU colleges and in cooperation with scientists in other states and countries. 

CALS Research Strengths

CALS ranks in the top five nationally for faculty with federal research grants out of 60 agricultural colleges, and in the top six for the total number of federal grants, according to Academic Analytics comparisons (2022). 

CALS ranks third out of 60 agricultural colleges nationwide for the number of faculty with awards (Academic Analytics, 2022). 

Over the last five years, Experiment Station scientists successfully brought in more than $300 million in external funding to address critical needs and expand scientific frontiers (Feb. 2022).

CALS is a leader nationally in applying science and bringing it to commercialization. 

  • 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 Ag 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

59% Federal agencies, 16% Businesses/corporations, 6% State agencies, 10% Other universities/colleges, 3% Commodity associations, 6% Foundations/assosciations/nonprofits, 0% Other sources

Research Highlights

With NASA grant, ISU agronomist seeks to spot crop stress from space
A research team led by Iowa State University agronomy professor Brian Hornbuckle is studying how to use satellite-based sensors to remotely detect daily changes in water content and temperature of plants in fields across the Corn Belt, a system that could act as an early warning system for crop stress. More.

Researchers team up to break down, upcycle low-quality, rejected plastic wastes
Iowa State University scientists are integrating existing and new technologies to break down waste plastics and convert them into useful materials. New research projects, supported by the U.S. Department of Energy, aim to convert the lowest-quality plastics in the waste stream, now rejected for recycling, into materials for construction industries. The new grant teams include researchers in the Colleges of Engineering and the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. More. 

Innovation at work: ISU technology gives farmers the tools to guess less. 
For more than 150 years, Iowa State University scientists have helped support agricultural production. Successful farming is increasingly fueled by data and automation, innovations that can boost yields and profits while improving sustainability. Often by building their own products or partnering with companies, ISU researchers give farmers tools for making better decisions. More. 

Designing a Plant Cuticle in the Lab 
A cross-disciplinary team of scientists led by Marna Yandeau-Nelson, genetics, development and cell biology, are working to bioengineer a common defense mechanism that most plants develop naturally to protect against drought, insects and other environmental stresses. The goal is to identify the genetic structure of a plant cuticle and create a roadmap for breeding plants with designer cuticles that can respond to changing climates. More