By Susan Thompson Thomas Isenhart believes Iowa is at a turning point for water quality, a true watershed moment. “In my 25 years working on water quality in Iowa, I have never seen as much attention to the topic,” Isenhart says. “We have an unprecedented opportunity to reach across all …


By Willy Klein It’s tough to get into Melissa O’Rourke and Kelvin Leibold’s class. There is often a waiting list. The course, Evaluating Your Estate Plan, doesn’t appear in the Iowa State University course catalog. It isn’t offered on campus and their students are not traditional students. O’Rourke and Leibold …


By Melea Reicks Licht Matthew Eddy taps his forehead. “Remember what you’re forgetting,” he tells one of his students. They are getting ready to set fire to various feedstuffs. The student nods as she realizes she’s forgotten her safety glasses. Students measure the mass of the feedstuff before and after …


By Haley Banwart Iowa State University is home to an impressive, 30,000-plus square-foot arena and multipurpose learning center. Located on the south end of campus, the Jeff and Deb Hansen Agriculture Student Learning Center is no ordinary classroom. The facility touts a 125-by-250 foot heated arena with seating for 1,000 …

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Paul Lasley, professor and chair of sociology and chair of anthropology; Missourian by birth, Iowan by choice

By Paul Lasley

Sometimes it is fun to reflect back on how things have changed and how other things have remained the same. Given my 33 years at ISU, and my long tenure with the annual Iowa Farm and Rural life Poll, I was asked to give voice to major themes of rural Iowa and how they’ve changed. As I dug through the reams of reports and data, enduring qualities of the state’s farm community surfaced from throughout the past three decades.

When the first Iowa Farm and Rural Life Poll report was issued in 1982, it was evident Iowa producers were distrustful of government policies. In that first poll, nearly 9 out 10 farmers agreed “farmers are being left out of many important agricultural decisions” and 85 percent agreed “farmers cannot count on government assistance.”

Just ahead of what was eventually termed the “Farm Crisis” of the 1980s, farmers were anxious about the future.

In this survey 42 percent felt it was likely the quality of life for farmers would decline in the next five years, and 54 percent predicted overall economic prospects for farmers would worsen. While none of us were able to accurately predict the severity of the economic downturn that eventually unfolded, farmers sensed things were going to get worse.

Thus, the first lesson I learned from the Farm Poll was how accurate the collective wisdom of a scientific random sample could be.

That first survey added a second observation: “It is impossible to place farmers into a single category.” Whenever anyone talks about farmers, I question what subgroup of farmers they are referring to: row crop farmers, livestock producers, fiscally conservative or socially liberal, well-established or beginning, or another subgroup? Farmers are a very diverse group. Sometimes they share a common vision, but other times they are diametrically opposed.

A third observation from my years polling farmers is they are an independent group—independent thinkers, entrepreneurs and often quite vocal in expressing their opinions. Throughout the years many producers have shared their reactions to the polls, submitted their ideas for future surveys and, from time-to-time, soundly criticized the methodology or wording of questions. They leave little doubt about their level of passion about rural life, farming and community.

Throughout the history of the Iowa Farm and Rural Life Poll have been many examples of the resiliency of farm families. Through good times and bad there has always been a glimmer of hope things will improve. Perhaps it is this eternal flame of optimism that keeps farmers doing what they love.

One of the great ironies is often one only hears about tough times, low yields and weak prices, but when we’ve asked farmers “if they had enough money to live comfortably, would they continue farming?” nearly two-thirds said they would continue to farm. While it is not fashionable to claim one loves their job, it’s pretty clear farmers are passionate about their occupations and share their love of agriculture. Their passion is often tied closely to family tradition and legacies, land ownership and stewardship.

A final observation is based on both the first and the most recent poll results: Iowa farm families want to be included in setting the agenda for agriculture and their rural communities. They have been partners in this long-term project and continue to share their stories and opinions with Iowa State University through the Iowa Farm and Rural Life Poll, for which all of us are grateful.


STORIES Online extra: Read more about Paul Lasley’s Iowa connections and his reflection on the true meaning of the CALS brand.


By Ed Adcock

Cook Trophy.web

Shown outside the Iowa Crop Improvement Association Dean’s Conference room in Curtiss Hall with the Cook corn judging trophy of 1904, Jim Rouse (left) and Kendall Lamkey continue the partnership in crop research between the association and Iowa State dating back to 1950.

Iowa farmers long have been driven to improve crop production. They joined together in the early 1900s to form organizations that sought better varieties of corn,more advanced ways to clean and select seed and improved tillage techniques.

And they partnered with Iowa State University to conduct research and expand their knowledge. Statewide corn shows drew farmers to the university’s Armory as early as 1904 for corn judging, competition and information.

Those first grower groups shared many goals and eventually combined in 1950 as the Iowa Crop Improvement Association. Jim Rouse (’87 animal science, ’90 MS entomology, ’04 PhD plant breeding), executive director since 2007, says its long history with Iowa State includes many connections.

Three of the association’s board members are from the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences—Endowed Dean Wendy Wintersteen (’88 PhD entomology), Manjit Misra, director of the Seed Science Center and Kendall Lamkey (’85 PhD agronomy), chair of the Department of Agronomy.

The nonprofit organization supports the student crop judging team, offers a summer internship program, awards several scholarships through Iowa State, funds research and sponsors the Iowa FFA Agronomy Career Development event. Scholarships are evaluated and adjusted depending on the agronomy department’s greatest need.

“The association supports the seed industry and agriculture, in general, but it supports the university very specifically,” Rouse says.

Lamkey says students in agronomy benefit directly from the association’s support. Its sponsorship of the crop judging team reinforces the association’s origins.

He also points to connections with agronomy’s external stakeholders.

“Iowa Crop helps keep us directly linked with the seed industry, through its role as the official seed-certifying agency for the state,” Lamkey says.

Seed certification is required for seed that’s shipped internationally. Rouse says a lot of seed beans grown in Iowa are exported to Canada and Europe, with seed corn going mainly to Canada and South America.

The organization’s statewide yield test results continue to be a sought-after service by farmers, and this year will mark its 95th anniversary. It helps fulfill the need for unbiased information on crop production.

“There might have been yield information available before it began in 1920, but that was when it was standardized and centralized. Before it was more of a local endeavor,” Rouse says.

Chuck Cornelius (’83 agronomy), president of Cornelius Seed in northeast Iowa, says companies like his rely on the testing program.

“The Iowa Crop Performance Test provides Iowa’s corn and soybean growers a much needed, independent third-party testing service and has one of the best reputations in the industry,” says Cornelius, a former ICIA board member.

“ICIA does a great job testing across the state so growers have local data for their area. The growers who use this data gain confidence to plant new hybrids that will increase their yields.”


By Barbara McBreen­

Every year more than 1 million attendees flood the fairgrounds in Des Moines for the Iowa State Fair. Attractions range from a big boar contest to eating anything on a stick. Visitors can milk a cow, compete in a cooking competition and check out a variety of livestock, horticulture and food judging shows. The fair has agriculture at its core. That’s how College of Agriculture and Life Sciences alumni, students and faculty have come to be so integral to its success. Meet a few alums, of many, who passionately support the Iowa State Fair.



John Putney poses in front of the John L. Putney and Family Cattle Barn. He is the retired CEO and founder of the Iowa State Fair Blue Ribbon Foundation.

John Putney, (’68 farm operations), retired in March from his position as executive director of the Iowa State Fair Blue Ribbon Foundation. In 1993 he started the foundation, which has generated more than $95 million for improvements to the fairground facilities.

The foundation began with the goal of raising money for deteriorating facilities. Putney’s successful fundraising efforts have changed the face of the fairgrounds. His leadership resulted in the renovation and construction of 30 fairground facilities, including reconstruction of the Varied Industries Building and construction of the new Jacobson Exhibition Center.

Putney is a native of Gladbrook, Iowa, and has participated as an exhibitor at the Iowa State Fair, president of the Sale of Champions and beef superintendent. Gary Slater, the Iowa State Fair CEO and manager, says, “John Putney’s work not only renovated and constructed buildings; it also spurred new interest in the Fairgrounds as a rental facility and re-established the Iowa State Fair as one of the world’s must-see events.”



Emily Brewer1.jpg-web

Emily Brewer hosts a variety of educational events as the Iowa State Fair Ag Education Coordinator— including a daily butter sculpting competition and Little Hands on the Farm.

Gathering and selling items at the Farmers Market in the Little Hands on the Farm exhibit at the Iowa State Fair is a hands-on way to teach children about agriculture.

It’s just one of the educational exhibits at the Iowa State Fair managed by Emily Brewer, (’01 agricultural education) Iowa State Fair ag education coordinator. “Agriculture is the foundation of the Iowa State Fair and the fair is about learning. Combining the two in a fun way is what I do,” Brewer says.

Another educational attraction at the Iowa State Fair is the Animal Learning Center, which opened in 2007. Inside the center fair attendees can witness the birth of lambs, calves, pigs and chicks.

“We have had people who will wait up to six hours to see a calf being born,” Brewer says. “That’s exciting.”

Before coming to the State Fair in 2007, Brewer taught high school agricultural education in eastern Iowa for three years. She grew up on a crop and livestock farm near Dallas Center and is part of the fifth generation to live on the family farm.



Mike Anderson takes time for a photo during a sheep judging event. He’s superintendent of the 4-H Livestock exhibits, which, as he says, “includes anything with four legs and chickens.”

Imagine scheduling 5,000 animals to be shown over a two-week period by about 1,900 4-H members.

That’s exactly what Mike Anderson does at the Iowa State Fair.

“It’s two weeks nonstop,” Anderson says, “and after the fair it’s a let down because it’s over.”

Since 2006, Anderson, (’00 MS animal science), has worn two hats. He is both the Iowa State University Extension and Outreach 4-H Youth development program specialist and the superintendent of the 4-H Livestock exhibits at the Iowa State Fair.

Along with managing livestock shows, Anderson coordinates curriculum and programming for 16,000 4-H members across Iowa. Educating the public about Iowa State University and agriculture is one of the programming goals throughout the year and at the fair.

“We showcase Iowa State’s participation at the Iowa State Fair, so the public relates those activities to the university,” Anderson says

In August, a Commodity Carnival designed to illustrate the ups and downs of beef production will be featured at the Iowa State Fair. The educational program is for students in third through seventh grades. The game will allow the player to buy and sell grain to raise livestock. The teaching point will come at the end of the game when the player shows a profit or loss.

Anderson isn’t a stranger to the Iowa State Fair. He was a member of 4-H for nine years and remembers camping at the fair and competing in the livestock shows he now oversees.


As the Iowa State Fair 4-H Exhibits Building coordinator, Mitch Hoyer has coordinated daily events for the past 13 years. He says his biggest reward is watching youth succeed.


Watching young exhibitors and communications competitors succeed is what Mitchell Hoyer enjoys. It also makes coordinating and scheduling more than 100

volunteers, daily competitions and 4,000 exhibits worth the long hours during the 14 days he spends at the Iowa State Fair.

Hoyer (’80 animal science, ’81 agricultural education) is the Iowa State Fair 4-H Exhibits Building superintendent and ISU Extension and Outreach 4-H youth development program specialist. For the past 13 years he’s coordinated a team of volunteers who have made the 4-H exhibits area a success.

“It’s part planning, part magic and part I don’t know how it happens,” Hoyer says. “But, it’s because we have excellent volunteers.”

The 4-H members who exhibit at the Iowa State Fair have to win at the county level to be eligible. Hoyer says they are excited to be there.

“They will come in with their families and take photos next to their exhibit,” Hoyer says. “Whether it’s cookies, a cabinet or a photograph—it’s a big deal.”

Some of the more memorable exhibits included: A full-body zebra costume for a horse; a wooden chest built from the lumber of a 100-year-old tree taken down on the family farm; and a 100-yearold restored chair that survived a tornado.

“This is really about youth development and leadership opportunities for young people,” Hoyer says.

Those opportunities include a competition demonstrating what they’ve learned. Hoyer says he’s seen everything from golf to glass cutting, presentations with live goats, draft horses and even one with four albino reptiles.

The reward, he says, is when you see the smiles and the confidence of 4-H members bloom.



Members of the farm management team supply the latest tools for farmers to make informed decisions. Pictured are (left to right) Tim Eggers, Kristen Shulte, Kelvin Leibold, Charles Brown, Alan Barkema—guest AgDM author, Melissa O’Rourke, Steve Johnson, Ann Johanns and Chad Hart.

By Willy Klein

It’s tough to get into Melissa O’Rourke and Kelvin Leibold’s class. There is often a waiting list. The course, Evaluating Your Estate Plan, doesn’t appear in the Iowa State University course catalog. It isn’t offered on campus and their students are not traditional students.

O’Rourke and Leibold are farm management specialists with Iowa State University Extension and Outreach—part of an Iowa State team of educators who create course materials and deliver them as programs across Iowa to people who want farm management education and information. They carry out the Extension and Outreach core purpose of monitoring the needs of Iowans and developing educational materials to provide research based programs and resources to address those needs.

“In just two years, Evaluating Your Estate Plan has become a highly successful program because it fills a need we repeatedly heard from clients,” says O’Rourke. “The things we heard indicated an information gap, unwarranted fears of taxation and the need for knowledge and education.”

David Kading, an Iowa farmer from Casey, had questions. He attended Evaluating Your Estate Plan the first time to help his dad get a few things “squared away.” He returned to the course a second time with his daughter and a third time with his son and daughter-in-law because he was determined to create his own estate plan and wanted to involve and openly communicate with his family about the plan.

“The instructors gave me the push I needed to put things in order and helped me understand what I needed to think about, the decisions I needed to make regarding my estate,” says Kading. Since attending the course he has updated his will, established general and medical powers of attorney and given concentrated thought to his estate planning.

O’Rourke and Leibold are members of the Agriculture and Natural Resources (ANR) farm management team with ISU Extension and Outreach. The 15-member team, like all ANR work teams, consists of ISU Extension and Outreach faculty and staff located on campus and program specialists located around the state. Along with O’Rourke and Leibold, it took the expertise of farm ma

nagement team members Tim Eggers and Ann Johanns and economics professor Georgeanne Artz to develop the Evaluating Your Estate Plan curriculum.

Chad Hart, team leader and extension crop markets economist, says there are fairly low walls within his team and they work campus-to-field and field-to-campus when creating and providing resources for sound agricultural decision making.

Hart and Lee Schulz, livestock markets economist, depend on team members around the state to promote and help present the Pro Ag Series of informative meetings offered to agricultural lenders every November. “County extension staff and farm management specialists are important when it comes to organizing the meetings, finding venues and contacting audiences for our programs,” says Hart. “Our people around the state know who needs and wants our information. They have the contacts and skills to bring people together and the campus team members depend on them.”

Hart says his team responds to the educational needs of Iowa farmers and agribusiness professionals with a multipronged approach by offering face-to-face

meetings, making educational videos and presentations available on the Web, writing information files, fact sheets and spreadsheets and sharing them through Ag Decision Maker and the Extension Online Store.

Online library is always open

Managing farm finances—things like evaluating estate plans—is complicated business. Managing the information to help farmers make financial decisions also would be overwhelming if it weren’t for Ag Decision Maker and the farm management team.

Don Hofstrand, retired extension specialist, started Ag Decision Maker in 1979 as a small, convenient folder of reference files for extension farm management specialists. As the need to regularly update the files became evident, so did the need to add more information files and to share the contents with a broader audience. The folder grew and became the three-inch dark maroon Ag Decision Maker binder filled with printed information files. In 2001 Ag Decision Maker added a website—and today www.extension.iastate.edu/agdm is one of the most frequently visited ISU Extension and Outreach websites.

“Ag Decision Maker information is used by farmers, lenders, farm managers, agriculture instructors and others involved in agriculture,” says Ann Johanns, Ag Decision Maker coordinator and extension farm management team member. “Our team creates a wide range of business information and tools that are used in our educational programs on marketing, leasing, land values, legal issues, costs and returns and new business development. Our library of resources is open to anyone, at any time.”

Farm management team members are the main contributors to the Ag Decision Maker online library of resources. They also rely on expertise across Iowa State University and within the farm financial industry to build and maintain the resources contained within their agricultural economics and business website and used during educational programs.

The Evaluate Your Estate Plan materials are available online at Ag Decision Maker. When David Kading talks to his son in Colorado about the estate plan he is creating, his son can access the materials online. He doesn’t have to be in Iowa to benefit from the program. The Kadings still may have questions and they may be similar to those that other farm families are asking. If so, they may be influencing the next series of farm management educational programs and decision-making information files and spreadsheets.

“When Extension and Outreach helps people do for themselves we achieve the greatest results,” says Hart. “Extension and Outreach is about people. Education is our mission. That’s the whole point of a land-grant university—making a difference for Iowans.”


By Susan Thompson


Matthew Helmers studies nitrate movement to downstream waterbodies. At this field day near Decorah, he demonstrated water transport using the Iowa Learning Farms rainfall simulator

Thomas Isenhart believes Iowa is at a turning point for water quality, a true watershed moment.

“In my 25 years working on water quality in Iowa, I have never seen as much attention to the topic,” Isenhart says. “We have an unprecedented opportunity to reach across all stakeholders to develop and implement practices to improve water quality.”

An associate professor of natural resource ecology and management, Isenhart credits the increased attention on water quality to the Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy, which was finalized in May 2013.

Iowa State University was a partner in the strategy’s development, working with the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship (IDALS) and Iowa Department of Natural Resources.

The strategy related to farmland is built on a scientific assessment of practices and associated costs to reduce loading of nitrogen and phosphorus to Iowa surface waters. The College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and IDALS partnered to conduct the assessment.

Isenhart (’83 botany and environmental studies, ’88 MS and ’92 PhD water resources) led the phosphorus portion of the study. “The assessment was an important first step in gathering all the research on agriculture and water quality within Iowa’s corn-soybean systems and comparing how individual or combined practices may reduce downstream nutrient load,” Isenhart says.

Matthew Helmers (’95 civil engineering), associate professor of agricultural and biosystems engineering, led the team that assessed nitrogen issues for the science assessment.

“Our agricultural systems are important in Iowa but evaluating ways we can reduce downstream export of nutrients also is important,” Helmers says. “My interest is seeing agricultural systems implemented that are economically viable and environmentally friendly.”

Applying nitrogen fertilizer in the “right amount and at the right time” is an essential step, but not enough, says Helmers. “The science assessment puts the focus on practices that have the greatest potential for reducing nutrient loss.”

The need to increase voluntary efforts to reduce nutrient loss was one of the key points in the strategy. That led to an implementation phase developed by IDALS —the Iowa Water Quality Initiative.

“The initiative is built on farmers wanting to reduce their environmental impact,” says Bill Northey (’81 agricultural business), Iowa Secretary of Agriculture. In 2013, nearly $3 million in cost-share funds were snapped up by 1,100 farmers and landowners to adopt water quality improvement practices on 120,000 acres.

In December, eight targeted priority watersheds were chosen to receive $4.1 million over the next three years. An additional $8 million in partner and landowner matches were secured. A second round of applications this spring resulted in another five watershed projects that will receive $1.8 million over the next three years and be matched with $2.2 million by partners and landowners.

“These watershed projects play an important role in demonstrating water quality practices and encouraging additional farmer adoption,” Northey says. “There’s a strong commitment among many partners to identify and deploy practices that can make a difference.

Iowa State continues to partner by helping farmers understand what tools and practices best fit their unique land and water situation.

Some of the responsibility for that continued partnership falls to Jamie Benning (’01 agronomy, ’03 MS soil science), who was hired last fall as water quality program manager for ISU Extension and Outreach.

Her duties include expanding water quality programming within extension, increasing connections with partner agencies and organizations and identifying research and extension needs.

“Water quality is an issue that deserves additional attention,” says John Lawrence, associate dean for extension and outreach in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and director of ISU Agriculture and Natural Resources Extension and Outreach. “Having Jamie focus on coordinating water quality resources is a great asset.”

“Every Iowa farmer can be part of protecting our water resources,” Benning says. “Many are taking the opportunity to be involved in watershed projects, or reviewing the Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy for practices they can implement on their farms.”

Last fall there was a jump in the number of farmers who planted cover crops to slow winter soil erosion and reduce losses of nitrogen and phosphorus. At least 230,000 acres were planted with cover crops in 2013, compared to 65,000 acres in 2012.

Farmer Rob Stout (’78 farm operations) of Washington, Iowa, has seen the success of cover crops first-hand. Farming with his father after graduation, he became interested in no-till planting, learned more at field days and purchased a notill planter in 1983

Besides no-till planting, Stout has built tile-inlet terraces, grassed waterways and buffer strips. He first tried cover crops five years ago.

“It was a combination of me being ready because of heavy spring rains causing erosion even in no-till fields and a program offered through the Iowa Learning Farms and Practical Farmers of Iowa. They wanted farmers to try cover crops in a research environment on 10 acres of strip trials,” Stout says.

He tried it on the 10-acre strips, liked it and increased to 80 acres the next year. Now he’s up to 600 acres of cover crops. “Iowa farmers have a tremendous responsibility to keep our soil and nutrients where they belong and not in creeks and streams that eventually end up in the Gulf of Mexico,” Stout says. “I consider myself a temporary steward of my land.”

During the science assessment, it became clear additional research is needed to address critical gaps in knowledge regarding nitrogen and phosphorus transport. To that end, the Iowa Nutrient Research Center was established at Iowa State in 2013.

The center received $1.5 million from the Iowa Legislature for 2013-2014 and an additional $1.325 million for 2014-2015.

The first set of 10 projects, led by teams of scientists at Iowa State, the University of Iowa and University of Northern Iowa, includes research on bioreactors, cover crops, new technology to more accurately predict movement of nutrients and decision-support tools for farmers.


By Melea Reicks Licht


Former associate dean Eric Hoiberg and his wife Karen enjoyed watching their son Fred lead the ISU men’s basketball team to “the big dance” last season. In retirement Hoiberg enjoys spending time with family including sons Andrew, Steven and Fred.

Eric Hoiberg can dance. And, thanks to theefforts of his son, Fred, he’s been doing a lot of that lately.

Former associate dean Eric Hoiberg, also known as the father of Iowa State University men’s head basketball coach Fred Hoiberg, is equally proud of being Andrew’s dad and Steven’s dad as he is Fred’s.

Fred’s dance moves caught on video after a big win this season got national media attention, and as the team moved on to “the big dance” Fred’s efforts on the court brought Eric and his wife Karen to their feet.

Besides cheering on the Cyclones in the Sweet Sixteen and spending time with family, Eric Hoiberg also emcees the college’s annual Alumni Days open house for graduates of 50 years ago or earlier.

“I love hearing the stories of these extraordinary individuals,” says Hoiberg. “It’s good to reflect on how the college and agriculture have changed over the last 50 years.”

He’s got quite a story to tell himself. As associate dean for academic and state programs and a professor of sociology, he played a vital role in the life of the college and its students for more than 30 years.

Hoiberg’s father was a rural sociologist. It’s Karen’s father (a professional basketball player) he credits for his children’s athleticism. When Hoiberg came to Iowa State in 1974 from the University of Nebraska, his research focused on the changing structure of farming and its impacts on rural communities.

He reached all-star status with students serving as academic adviser for the public service and administration in agriculture program and teaching the introductory rural sociology class for more than 20 years.

“Eric Hoiberg was an outstanding teacher, adviser and counselor to hundreds of students,” says Paul Lasley, chair of sociology and anthropology. “He was instrumental in creating and maintaining the public service and administration in agriculture major—now known as agriculture in society.”

Serving as associate dean for academic and state programs from

1995 until his retirement in 2005 allowed Hoiberg to devote himself entirely to undergraduate education

Hoiberg witnessed a number of changes in agriculture throughout his tenure—farm size, increased opportunities for women, advanced technology—and most recently a larger emphasis on life sciences.

He was part of the team that steered the college through reorganizing and modernizing the biological sciences to reflect the revolution in science.

“We have awakened to the tremendous diversity that exists in the term agriculture. We adapted to best serve and communicate with potential students and the public about this new definition without forsaking traditional production agriculture,” Hoiberg says.

Hoiberg advanced distance education programs and worked to further partnerships with community colleges.

“I looked for ways to embed critical thinking, communication and ethical content throughout the college,” Hoiberg says.

Hoiberg received numerous awards for his contributions including a USDA award for superior service and just about every teaching and advising award bestowed by the college or university.

“Dr. Hoiberg’s commitment, insights and true passion to help students succeed helped launch the professional lives of many of us PSAers in industry, academia, government and broader public service. His passion and investment in us has multiplied many times over,” says Dawn Thilmany McFadden (’90 public service and administration in agriculture and international agriculture), a professor and agribusiness extension economist at Colorado State University.

Hoiberg’s support of students continues. The Department of Sociology created an undergraduate scholarship program in honor of Hoiberg to support students majoring in agriculture and society.



By Melea Reicks Licht


Matthew Eddy is one of nearly 80 Iowa agriculture teachers certified in a curriculum to help students excel in math and science. Here students learn about energy conversion by burning feedstuffs.

Matthew Eddy taps his forehead. “Remember what you’re forgetting,” he tells one of his students.

They are getting ready to set fire to various feedstuffs. The student nods as she realizes she’s forgotten her safety glasses. Students measure the mass of the feedstuff before and after the burn. The change in temperature of a known quantity of water will indicate how much energy is released from each type of feed.

The students are excited. Eddy smiles and walks over with his small torch after a student calls out, “Bring the heat, Eddy! We’re ready.”

The flame grabs hold of the hay and begins to smolder. Students snap photos with cell phone cameras. Tweets abound. (#agedrocks #playingwithfire)

Eddy (’99 agricultural and life sciences education, ’08 MS) and his Southeast Polk High School agriculture students use the Curriculum for Agricultural Science Education (CASE). The national program was designed by agricultural educators and launched in 2009.

Thanks to grants Eddy successfully landed, the agriculture lab gives students a glimpse into technology similar to what’s available at multinational agribusinesses.

“I could do these labs with a Dixie cup, but that’s not what Pioneer does,” Eddy says. “This equipment is the same stuff you’ll find in biotechnology labs in industry.”

Having a packaged curriculum and receiving training to implement it takes a lot off of teachers’ plates, Eddy says, so they can focus on maximizing students’ experience.

Ready-made curriculum

“The CASE curriculum is like a paint-by-number to Picasso,” Eddy says. “It helps new teachers deal with the rigors of creating such a program from scratch. It provides much needed structure for teachers of all experience levels. And CASE provides continuity for school districts experiencing turnover.”

Mike Retallick (’05 PhD agricultural and life sciences education), associate professor of agricultural education and studies at Iowa State University, coordinates certification in CASE for Iowa educators.

Last summer nearly 80 Iowa agriculture teachers were certified to help students advance in math and science under Retallick’s leadership. He represents Iowa on the national advisory board of CASE and as the state leader he works with teachers hired to train agriculture educators on how to implement new curriculum.

“This program increases student understanding in math and science through the context of agriculture,” Retallick says. “The inquiry-based teaching methods used in CASE develop students into problem solvers, critical thinkers and lifelong learners.”

The Iowa Governor’s STEM (Science,Technology, Engineering and Math) Advisory Council awarded funding for the program to Iowa’s TEAM AgEd, which promotes agricultural education. The team includes Iowa State’s agricultural education and studies department, the Iowa Department of Education, Iowa agriculture teachers, the Iowa FFA Association and the Iowa FFA Foundation.

Josh Remington (’06 horticulture), executive director of the Iowa FFA Foundation, Eddy, Retallick and several other high school agriculture teachers prepared the grant proposal. The grants aim to boost student interest and achievement in STEM topics.

The grant funded access to the curriculum, equipment and 80 hours of professional development.

Introducing students to agriculture

Drawn in by science—and curiosity— students in Eddy’s classes are exposed to concepts that run the gamut of the agriculture industry. Agriculture courses in his urban-based school near Des Moines are full. “Out of our 200 FFA members, I can count on one hand the number that are from a farm,” Eddy says.

The focus on science allows him to reach students not otherwise engaged in agriculture. He can spark an interest in science for those not motivated to understand basic science concepts.

“I’ve found that a student who is getting C’s and D’s in science seem to get it here. We’re doing the same science, but in a way that frames it in the real world,” Eddy says. “The best part is awakening the kids who won’t think they’ll like science or agriculture, then they do.”

Eddy says agriculture should be required coursework for all U.S. high schoolers. “Students don’t know how or where their food is produced. They don’t understand the technology or the process involved,” Eddy says. “We can help fill the gap so they may have informed opinions as adult consumers.”

Multifaceted approach

The CASE curriculum is one component of Eddy’s agricultural program that, like others, includes supervised agricultural experiences to allow students to explore agricultural careers before graduation.

The experiences range from home gardens to part-time jobs in agricultural businesses to raising animals or crops for profit. Keeping careful records allows students to gain business skills and learn from both successes and setbacks in a supportive environment.

The Southeast Polk FFA Chapter also hosts the Animal Learning Center at the Iowa State Fair each year, which gives nonfarm students the opportunity to interact with animals while teaching the public about livestock. The chapter educates 750,000 visitors per year about how the animals are raised and handled. The hands-on experience in production agriculture complements CASE’s science based curriculum.

Once familiar with agriculture, Eddy says his students are excited by the opportunities they see in the industry. “Ag is cool again,” he says. “It’s thriving, and they’re excited by the career possibilities.”


By Darcy Maulsby


Mark Shour, Iowa State University extension entomologist, and Robin Pruisner, entomologist for the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship, are part of a statewide team of experts working to detect, prevent and respond to the appearance of emerald ash borer in Iowa.

While it’s small in size, the emerald ash borer is bringing huge changes to the Iowa landscape. The tiny beetle larvae leave tunnels as they eat their way through an infested tree. This destroys the tree’s ability to transport water and nutrients between the canopy and the roots. Trees attacked by the emerald ash borer (EAB) will usually be killed within four years. As the destructive pest spreads, the management challenges can seem overwhelming.

“We’re a river town, and much of the community’s charm comes from a well-established urban canopy,” says Casey Chadwick, city forester for Burlington, which is projected to lose 20 percent or more of its total canopy. “We conservatively estimate that EAB will cost us $1 million with removals and replanting.”

The stakes are even higher in Waterloo, which has more than 4,300 ash trees. “If all the public ash trees were removed by contractors, the city would have to pay approximately $2.4 million,” says Todd Derifield, Waterloo’s urban forester. “To replace all of those trees, the city would have to pay approximately $1.3 million.”

Both Derifield and Chadwick appreciate educational resources from Iowa State University Extension and Outreach. Educating Iowans about EAB is vital, says Jeff Iles, chair of the Iowa State University Department of Horticulture. “Iowans expect ISU to be out in front of issues like his and provide science-based solutions.” EAB stows away in firewood, which is how it is most often transported. An infestation is difficult to detect until the population develops in an area for three to five years, notes Mark Shour, an entomologist with Iowa State University Extension and Outreach.

Shour and his colleagues work closely with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Iowa Department of Natural Resources and the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship (IDALS) to help slow the spread of EAB, which has been confirmed in Allamakee, Black Hawk, Bremer, Cedar, Des Moines, Jasper, Jefferson, Union and Wapello Counties.

There’s no time to waste, says Robin Pruisner (’94 entomology, pest management), IDALS state entomologist. “EAB is too big of an issue for any one entity to handle. I value Iowa State University’s proactive approach.”

Iowa State University Extension and Outreach has participated in the Iowa EAB Readiness Team since EAB was first discovered in Michigan in 2002, Shour says. “This has permitted time for detailed planning and calculated responses, including tree removals, selected tree treatments and tree replacements.”

There is no one-size-fits-all strategy with EAB, says Laura Jesse, an extension entomologist. “What works for a homeowner with two ash trees may not be feasible for a golf course with 70 ash trees or a city with 5,000 ash trees.”

There are proven solutions, however, to help slow the spread of EAB, starting with firewood. “As we say, don’t pack a pest,” Pruisner says. “Buy it local, burn it local.”

Also, lining street after street with ash or any other singletree species is a flawed plan, Iles says. “We must focus on biological diversity. EAB presents a unique challenge, but it will not deter us from our continuing efforts to make our communities better places to live.”



Read about Iowa State University’s partnership with Prison Industries in repurposing ash from trees on campus at: http://www.news.iastate.edu/news/2012/apr/PrisonIndustries.




By Barbara McBreen

MCB_0092-1.jpg-webEvery member of the 2013-14 Iowa FFA officer team was enrolled at Iowa State University last year. The nine students are from every corner of Iowa and they have some thoughts to share about FFA and their future dreams.

Josh Earll, junior in agricultural and life sciences education from Sibley, Iowa
Iowa FFA president, 2013-14

What is your favorite FFA memory?
My father is an agricultural education teacher at Sibley-Ocheyedan High School and I’ve always enjoyed spending time with him on FFA projects. Why and how does this organization benefit students? Whether it’s scholarships, class work or supervised agricultural experiences, students in FFA have many opportunities to grow as individuals. This is a student led organization. Every decision made in this organization is made by students. FFA is unique because of the opportunities students can pursue.

What is your dream?
I hope to pursue a career as an auctioneer, realtor or appraiser.

James Leonard, sophomore in agricultural business from Newton, Iowa
Iowa FFA vice-president, 2013-14

How does FFA serve others and how has it helped you become your best?
At the Washington D.C. Leadership Conference, I made lasting friendships, but I also learned a lot about myself and from students around the world. I had the chance to make a difference that week working at a battered women’s shelter. We helped clean the shelter and talked with the women at the shelter. My FFA experience also helped me conquer my public speaking fears.

What is your dream?
My goal is to pursue a career in agricultural business and accounting and ultimately go back to help manage my family farm in Jasper County.

Trey Forsyth, a junior in agricultural business from Charles City, Iowa
Iowa FFA north central state vice-president, 2013-14

How did FFA help you find your voice?
On our way to State Convention my adviser had me stand outside a restaurant to practice the FFA Creed to prepare for the state contest, while everyone else stood inside and watched. Everyone at the restaurant looked at me like I was crazy. Our chapter has carried on this tradition ever since.

What did that experience teach you about public speaking?
It taught me that sometimes the only way to get better is to go outside your comfort zone. If you never take new challenges—you will never grow as a leader.

What is your dream?
I hope to work for an agricultural business after graduating from Iowa State.

Brad Pickhinke, a junior in agricultural biochemistry from Sac City, Iowa
Iowa FFA reporter 2013-14

Is FFA just about agriculture?
FFA is about learning to be a leader and a communicator. FFA has taught me how to be an efficient communicator, leader and even how to swing dance. It excites me because of the passion and unity you see from every member across the nation. The blue jacket is sign of hard work, integrity and belief in the future of agriculture.

What is your dream?
To positively impact the lives of others at home and around the world through my work with agriculture.

Tony Moellers, a sophomore in agronomy from North Union, Iowa
Iowa FFA northeast state vice-president

What unique opportunities has FFA provided?
I would not have the skills or be where I am today without being in this organization. I have been fortunate to travel, lead and network through FFA. Being a state FFA officer has been the best experience of my life and every day brings something new. Even when you think you can’t, remember it is better to aim for the sky and miss, than to aim for a manure pile and hit it.

What is your dream?
It is my dream to use the skills I’ve learned through FFA to become successful in my career. I would like to work for Stine, Monsanto or Pioneer in the area of seed sales. I also hope to have a wonderful family.

Abrah Meyer, sophomore in agricultural business from Readlyn, Iowa
Iowa FFA state secretary

How does FFA build relationships?
I started working at the Iowa State Fair as a stage attendant for FFA during my sophomore year of high school. I met a few of my best friends there, and I will never forget the memories we shared. FFA has helped me form some of the greatest friendships in my life. I never thought that there would be so many experiences that apply to college, relationships and life in general. This year has provided me with an incredible opportunity to garner even more incredible relationships in and out of the blue jacket.

What is your dream?
Working overseas in an underdeveloped area of the world—is my dream. I hope to eventually be a source of service to people as a missionary for agriculture and faith beyond my time in the FFA.

Lauren Weirup, senior in agricultural and life sciences education from DeWitt, Iowa
Iowa FFA southeast vice-president

What do you enjoy about FFA?
FFA is about the journey. There is nothing better than a long road trip with fellow members. My favorite trip was the Washington D.C. Leadership Conference. I met people from around the United States, visited the presidential memorials and spent a service day in a garden gathering food for the needy. While achieving and serving, I developed business and speaking skills that have prepared me for the next chapter of my life.

What is your dream?
My dream is to finish my education and travel overseas to help bridge the gap in communication between the United States and other less fortunate countries. Basically, I want to help the transfer of technologies and methods from the United States to other countries to help even the playing fields and stop hunger.

Dylan Brockshus, sophomore animal science from Sibley, Iowa
Iowa FFA northwest vice-president

Why are FFA conferences important?
During my first semester at Iowa State I really enjoyed hosting several different conferences for FFA Chapter Officers and freshman members. My favorite memories involve meeting people, traveling to FFA events and participating in contests. The contests help students develop leadership and career skills for future endeavors. My favorite was the job interview event, which helped me build skills that I can use when I start my career.

What is your dream?
My dream is to have a lovely family and live in the country raising livestock and advocating for agriculture and agricultural education.

Logan Kelly, sophomore in animal ecology from Coon Rapids, Iowa
Iowa FFA southwest vice-president

Why Iowa State?
Iowa State is truly one of the best agricultural schools in the nation. When I am not learning about ecological systems, I break out of my daily routine and try new things. There is always something to do on campus, just being able to explore Iowa State is a journey all its own.

What is your dream?
My dream is to work in wildlife biology and work in the outdoors with America’s natural resources. I may get into teaching agriculture or get involved with FFA again as an adviser or alumni member.


By Teddi Barron

Family.jpg-webA compelling mix of Iowa State University’s dairy science program, a historic barn west of Ogden and plain old-fashioned “Iowa nice” was all it took for the Hodges-Tinner family of Hockinson, Wash., to pick up and move to Iowa.

Greg, Margot, Erich and their five horses are among the newest—and perhaps happiest—Cyclones in the Hawkeye state. Their love affair with all things Iowa started in 2009 during Erich’s freshman year in dairy science and animal science at Iowa State.

“The first time I went to the dairy science office, all the faculty flocked to me. It was like being part of a family. Before long, I knew every faculty member and had been to each of their homes,” Erich says.

That year, Greg, a retired Realtor, and Margot, a Delta Air Lines flight attendant, visited Ames every chance they got: Cyclone Family Weekend, dairy science banquet, holidays. Each stay was a “really positive experience.” Soon they bought a house in Ames for extended visits between Margot’s overseas flights (she and Erich are fluent in French and German). They even named their new, red colt Cy.

Erich, an award-winning honors student and self-described multi-tasker, thrived at Iowa State. He was a College of Agriculture and Life Sciences Excellence in Agriculture scholar, a member of the freshman leadership class, Maple Hall president, ag peer mentor and President’s Leadership Initiative Award scholarship winner. Through the college, he studied abroad in Bulgaria, Ukraine, Scotland and England. Eventually, he will set up shop as a large animal veterinarian—in Iowa.

“For what I want to do in the ag industry, this is the place to be,” says Erich.

He never expected his parents to end up here, too. But that’s what happened. Greg and Margot have farm backgrounds and Margot has dairy farming relatives in Switzerland. Over time, they say, southwest Washington has moved away from the ag industry.

“We wanted to live in an environment friendlier to agriculture, horses and farming,” Greg says.

“Iowans are so welcoming and down to earth. If your car breaks down on Highway 30, they’ll stop and help you,” Margot says. “We never worried about Erich coming to school here because the environment is so nurturing and people have such good core values.”

An adventure for the entire family

Erich just completed his first-year at Iowa State’s College of Veterinary Medicine. And Greg and Margot are card-carrying Iowans. They purchased (and restored) that 1906 barn, along with a sevenbedroom farmhouse and a one-room schoolhouse on 10 acres.

They’ve completed the largest indoor horse facility in Boone County. It’s 72 feet by 248 feet and includes a riding arena. Margot, a former 4-H leader and avid equestrian, has opened the arena to local 4-H and FFA groups, saddle clubs and local drill teams to use for practice.

“It’s been a real adventure,” Greg says about the barn and schoolhouse restoration, horse barn construction, house remodeling and cross-country move.

The 1911 house had been renovated to become a bed and breakfast—seven bedrooms and eight baths, but no closets. It was vacant for 15 years and needed to be updated. Now, people stop along the road just to stare at the striking foursquare Victorian with the picture-perfect front porch. The interior of the 1850 schoolhouse, which had been moved from a mile away, was refurbished this spring.

“We took many suggestions about uses for the schoolhouse. We want it to be as authentic as possible,” says Margot, a former schoolteacher.

When news of their renovation hit the press, they were approached by Gary Sobieski from the Correctionville, Iowa, area who wanted to donate a bell he salvaged more than 60 years ago. Sobieski told them, “I have a bell and no schoolhouse, and you have a schoolhouse and no bell. It belongs with you.”

The barn, however, is their work of art and labor of love. Seems the entire family has a soft spot for historic barns like the one Margot’s grandfather had after emigrating from Switzerland. A farm with a historic barn has been her lifelong dream.

“When I first saw this place, I thought ‘Be still my heart,’” Margot says.

They made an offer, but it was turned down. A year later, their Realtor called to say the price had been lowered and asked if they were still interested.

‘Iowa nice’ runs deep

John Paulson was the original owner of the Daniel Boone Trial Farm, as it was known. His Percheron draft horses helped build Highway 169. And he had dairy cows.

“There are so few barns left with this style, structure and quality,” Greg says. “But restoring it was a lot of work, a lot more than we’d planned on. You find one spot that needs to be fixed and then uncover another one. For a while, it was a never-ending project.

“We had a couple of really good contractors who helped. They enjoyed putting the history back into the barn. It was encouraging to have people who appreciated what we were trying to do,” Greg says.

“We didn’t know any of these people and they were all working for us, doing what we asked. Everything was arranged over the phone or with a handshake,” Margot says. “You can count on people here; they stand by their word.”

Neighbors, too, have pitched in. Literally. When they saw the family unloading hay at midnight, they stopped to help. “You really can’t find that in other places,” Margot says.

Brown Swiss leads the way home

Erich learned about Iowa State’s dairy science program when he represented Washington as part of its 4-H dairy judging team at the national competition during the World Dairy Expo.

He had a Brown Swiss cow in Washington that made the move with them. She was Erich’s first dairy cow. He got her when she was 7-weeks old. And he says she lived a “very spoiled” life.

“She’d wait for me at the school bus stop and run along the fence to meet me,” Erich says. “She was a big part of my life and we weren’t going to move without her.”

His interest in dairy is what introduced him to Iowa State and his family to Iowa.

“I’d never heard of Iowa State and had never really thought about going half-way across the country to school. But when I looked into colleges, Iowa State kept coming out as number one, meeting all my criteria,” he says.

The Hodges family is spreading the word about Iowa State back in Washington. The former president of Margot’s 4-H Club is now a Cyclone, majoring in biology. And they’ve convinced two additional high school students to join Erich in Ames.

His beloved Brown Swiss cow was known as Sundae. She got to graze the green pastures of Iowa for one season before passing away this winter. The family named their new Iowa home after her—Sundae Morning Farm.


By Haley Cook

IMG_1789.jpg-webOne hundred years of opportunities, friendship, scholarship and brotherhood gave the men of Alpha Gamma Rho many reasons to celebrate during their centennial celebration in April.

The fraternity for young men pursuing careers in food, fuel, natural resources, life sciences and related fields, has been a mainstay of student leadership and involvement at Iowa State since its charter date in 1914. Known as AGR, the fraternity is the only house on campus to designate membership according to related career interest.

“Our motto is to make better men, and the opportunities for our members are tremendous,” says Eric Peterson, general manager at Summit Farms, LLC. Peterson (’07 agricultural business) served on the centennial planning committee.

As one of the first established chapters in the nation, AGR had humble beginnings in a rented home on Hyland Avenue in the campustown area. Steady growth allowed the chapter to purchase land and build at its existing location, 201 Gray Avenue in 1921. Since that time, the homestead of AGR has evolved to meet the growing needs of the organization. 2014 house occupancy is 89 students, with 85 initiates living on-site.

AGR’s legacy is apparent with more than 800 AGR alumni and guests in attendance at the centennial. Participants celebrated on a grand scale with tours of the AGR house, Iowa State facilities, roundtable industry discussions drawing in global agriculture leaders and class reunions.

“This is a celebration of our alumni’s continued achievements,” says Chance Wiese, senior in animal science and current president of Iowa State’s AGR chapter. He says leadership skills learned in the fraternity during undergraduate years have translated to lifetime success.

The planning committee’s vision, almost two years in the making, came to fruition in the Marvin J. Walter and Alpha Gamma Rho Arena in the new Jeff and Deb Hansen Agriculture Student Learning Center. Both the local chapter and many AGR alumni supported the facility, says Wiese.

“Hosting the event in the arena was the perfect way to honor the memory of our brother Marv Walter, and to showcase the amazing facility we helped bring to Iowa State University,” Wiese says. Walter (’62 MS animal science) provided the preliminary gift to fund the Hansen Student Learning Center (read more about the center on page 38).

“This organization has created an opportunity for us to impact something larger than ourselves,” says Wiese.

At ISU, AGR members are heavily involved in campus-wide initiatives like VEISHEA, Greek Week and Homecoming. They also are the driving force behind philanthropic projects like “BBQ B4 Books,” an event held to raise funds for Heifer International, a global organization focused on empowering communities to end world hunger and poverty.

Nearly 2,200 initiates have walked through the doors of AGR since its inception. They walk out a member of an on-going legacy providing resources, leadership and brotherhood in agriculture. As Peterson says, “they walk out better men.”


By Haley Banwart


Since it opened in January 2014, the Jeff and Deb Hansen Agriculture Student Learning Center already has hosted the Block & Bridle swine show and numerous other student events.

Iowa State University is home to an impressive, 30,000-plus square-foot arena and multipurpose learning center. Located on the south end of campus, the Jeff and Deb Hansen Agriculture Student Learning Center is no ordinary classroom.

The facility touts a 125-by-250 foot heated arena with seating for 1,000 people, heated animal holding areas and six climate controlled classrooms that accommodate up to 35 people each.

“The Jeff and Deb Hansen Agriculture Learning Center will be an invaluable asset for students to sharpen their skills working with, caring for and learning about animals,” says Wendy Wintersteen, dean of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.

The Hansen Center officially opened in January 2014 and has been used by the Department of Animal Science to teach courses, labs and training programs. Other events, including the Iowa State University Tradition of Excellence Cattle Sale, the 20th Annual Block & Bridle Cyclone Classic and the Spring Block & Bridle Market Hog Show (pictured) also have taken place in the new facility.

The new facility provides the perfect learning environment for animal-human interaction. According to Marshall Ruble, agriculture research station superintendent and facility manager, the Hansen Center is focused on students and their activities university-wide. The versatility of the learning center makes it a great venue for student clubs, judging teams, outreach programs and other public events.

“The Hansen Center has greatly improved the success of our Block & Bridle events,” says Brady Zuck, senior in animal science. “The events run more smoothly due to the exceptional facilities, and our attendance has increased as well.”

The facility has become a competitive recruitment tool for Iowa State. The state-of- the-art technology and multipurpose features of the Hansen Center will create a lasting impression for prospective students. Additionally, the Hansen Center provides another opportunity to showcase current Iowa State students, clubs and agricultural partners across the Midwest.

“We are now the envy of agriculture schools across the country,” Ruble says. “With this pavilion we can offer students many learning experiences.”

The construction of the Jeff and Deb Hansen Agriculture Student Learning Center was made possible by the donations of more than 150 contributors. The Hansens are third generation family farmers and the founders of Iowa Select Farms, a pork production company headquartered in Iowa Falls, Iowa. The company employs nearly 1,000 Iowans in 46 counties and is known as the state’s largest pork producer and one of the most technologically and environmentally advanced in the country.

The Hansens are recipients of a 2014 Iowa State University Honorary Alumni Award. In addition to the Hansen Center, their support of the Jeff Hansen Iowa Select Farms Pork Industry Scholarship, Iowa Foundation for Agricultural Advancement Scholarship and the Animal Science Judging Endowment Campaign is transforming the educational experience for Iowa State students. They also have funded research, appeared as guest speakers on campus and hire Iowa State graduates.

“Deb and I were pleased to invest in the future of our state by supporting this project which enhances teaching in animal sciences and agriculture,” says Jeff Hansen. “This facility provides an invaluable learning environment for young people for both coursework and extracurricular events that build tomorrow’s leaders. The construction of the agriculture student learning center makes a compelling statement about the promising futures in animal agriculture and many related fields.”


By Haley Cook

Coffee Shop.web

Heidi Bell’s coffee shop, From the Ground, brings more to Leon, Iowa, than lattes and pastries. City officials say the business has helped revitalize downtown.

Heidi Bell is revitalizing rural Iowa one cup of coffee at a time. Bell (’97 agricultural business, agricultural extension education) is the proprietor of From the Ground, a cozy coffee shop and restaurant tucked in the Main Street square of Leon, Iowa.

Opened in 2010, From the Ground was created to meet a need in the local economy identified by a grassroots effort within the community.

The result is a charming shop: tin ceiling, cheerful decor and well-worn dining room sets for seating. A chalkboard located on the sidewalk lists the day’s specials, and the aroma of coffee and baked goods welcomes visitors as they enter. The glass-topped front counter is filled with golden-crusted pies, huge cinnamon rolls and sumptuous scones.

As people enter, Bell greets them each by name and asks about their lives.

“Members of our community are important to me,” says Bell. “My staff work very hard to connect with each of our customers to get to know them and provide a warm, inviting place to gather.”

Gather, is exactly what locals do at “Heidi’s place.” Throughout the day all ages move in and out of the shop. Some come to visit with friends. Others grab a quick snack on the way to high school play practice.

“This isn’t about owning a restaurant,” says Bell. “It’s about community and creating a place for people to belong. That’s what makes this place so neat. We value your dollar and your personality.”

Bell takes supporting her rural community seriously. She sources as many ingredients as possible from local vendors and businesses. The decorations in the shop are made by local artists, and she contracts with a local vendor for her best-selling pies and cinnamon rolls.

She’s also the past president of the Leon Chamber of Commerce, a member of the Leon Community Development Corporation, a 4-H leader, the education director of her church’s youth group and most recent awardee of the Iowa Small Business Development Center’s Dalziel Woman Entrepreneur Achievement Award. The list of her community service and outreach continues.

“From the Ground adds a fresh face to a dower looking business district. It helps restore the vibrancy and puts the ‘main’ back in Main Street,” says Robert Kilgore, mayor of Leon. “Heidi’s business boosts the economic health of our business community, anchors Main Street the way it used to function and keeps our dollars local and supporting the community. We are tremendously lucky to have Heidi as a business owner here in Leon and hope she will give us many more years of her drive and talents.”

Heidi began her professional career as a 4-H youth field specialist, which has fueled her passion for community. “Hands are a big part of 4-H; if you have skills and you can help, you should,” she says.

Bell’s agricultural business degree has come in handy several times with her business venture. “Supply and demand, opportunity cost, supply chain management, all of these are part of my daily life now,” says Bell. “My education at Iowa State has prepared me well for my career.”

Bell and her husband, Lance (’97 animal science) support college and university programs, are active in 4-H and cheer on the Cyclones with their children.


By Darcy Maulsby


Paul Hill (left) and Nathan Hill (right) hosted Dean Wendy Wintersteen, Iowa State President Steven Leath and Iowa Turkey Federation President Noel Thompson (center) at Circle Hill Farms, one of Iowa’s 118 turkey farms.

The numbers are impressive. Approximately 14 million turkeys will be processed in Iowa in 2014, and 11 million of these birds will be grown in state. This helps drive the

economy in Iowa, which boasts 118 turkey farms and ranks ninth in U.S. turkey production.

“When you raise the birds and process them in Iowa, that’s where you get the most economic impact for the state,” says Gretta Irwin, executive director of the Iowa Turkey Federation.

In 2011, Iowa’s turkey industry was responsible for as much as $1.43 billion in total economic activity throughout the state, creating or supporting up to 6,750 jobs. Iowa State University President Steven Leath and his colleagues, including Wendy Wintersteen, dean of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, saw this firsthand when they visited Circle Hill Farms near Ellsworth last fall.

“President Leath and I were impressed by Circle Hill Farm’s facilities and the high level of management,” Wintersteen says.

Safety first

West Liberty Foods, which is a major supplier to Subway restaurants, also was a highlight of Leath and Wintersteen’s tour of Iowa’s turkey industry. Since 2003, the company has partnered with Iowa State University Meat Science Extension and Southeast Iowa Area Extension to develop and implement an innovative food safety training program at West Liberty Foods’ plant in Mount Pleasant, which produces ready-to-eat products.

The training, which is taught by a West Liberty Foods employee and a representative of Southeast Iowa Area Extension, addresses sanitation, personal hygiene, allergens, foodborne illness, bacteria and cross contamination. Upon successful completion of the training, which includes passing an exam, participants are awarded a certificate and one continuing education unit from Iowa State.

“Since its inception, more than 400 food safety training classes have been taught, and more than 4,600 people have successfully completed the training,” says Joseph Cordray, an extension meat specialist. “In 2007 when West Liberty Foods opened a plant in Tremonton, Utah, a similar food safety training program was implemented there.”

Partnering for Iowans

West Liberty Foods has long been a leader in food safety, Cordray adds. In 2008, the company co-sponsored a food safety conference with Iowa State and invited other Subway suppliers to attend. “West Liberty Foods’ leaders understand food safety issues have implications throughout the industry,” Cordray says.

The university’s ties with West Liberty Foods continue to strengthen, noted Barbara Anderson, an extension nutrition and health program specialist. “This partnership is a great example of how extension and outreach is putting the university’s research and resources to work for Iowans.”

The stories of West Liberty Foods and Iowa’s turkey industry are inspirational, Wintersteen says. “They demonstrate the importance of processing in Iowa and how agriculture can strengthen our rural communities.”


By Ann Marie Edwards

Hunger Summit.web

The Iowa Hunger Summit happens annually and was established by The World Food Prize to celebrate Iowa’s successes in fighting hunger and poverty and to unite in further action against both.

Leaders from across Iowa, including College of Agriculture and Life Sciences faculty and staff discuss research and efforts to thwart hunger each October at the annual Iowa Hunger Summit. The day-long conference was established by The World Food Prize several years ago in order to celebrate Iowa’s successes in fighting hunger and poverty and to unite in further action against both.

Participants explore issues of hunger occurring in Iowa and beyond and what various humanitarian organizations, state agencies and local groups are doing to fight hunger.

Experts offer shared vision

Max Rothschild, distinguished animal science professor and international leader in pig genetics, and Hank Harris, one of the world’s foremost authorities on infectious diseases of swine and related pathogens in people, were speakers on a panel, “One Health: Healthy Animals, Healthy People, Healthy Planet” at the 2013 summit.

John Thomson, dean emeritus Iowa State University College of Veterinary Medicine, chaired the panel, which also included James Blessman of Blessman Ministries and Mary Lou Penrith, extraordinary professor of the University of Pretoria in South Africa.

Rothschild has served as the coordinator for the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Pig Genome Mapping project. An active humanitarian both personally and professionally, he volunteers with the Emergency Residence Project and Good Neighbor Emergency Assistance in Ames and is involved with Iowa State’s Sustainable Rural Livelihoods program to help improve the quality of life for people in Uganda. He discussed his work in Uganda leading an effort to improve pig production to increase the amount of protein in people’s diets.

“Hunger, whether it is developing countries around the world or in Iowa, represents a major challenge for all of us in agriculture. It robs people of their dignity and the ability to succeed in life,” says Rothschild. “Livestock, especially in the hands of poor people, and especially female farmers, can help raise their level of food security and provide income to help their families out of poverty and improve their nutrition.”

Harris, one of the founders and a CEO of NOBL Laboratories and founder and CEO of Harrisvaccines, Inc, discussed his research in swine health and developing the next generation of vaccines for animals and humans. Harris developed the first vaccines available in the United States for the pandemic H1N1 virus and for the Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea virus (PEDV).

Harris stressed the importance of non-living platform vaccine technologies (those that do not require live viruses) for preparedness in the United States against possible foreign animal diseases.

“These same vaccines will be valuable especially in developing countries for reducing hunger as they help ensure meat supply and safety,” Harris says.

Tomorrow’s global leaders

Kelsey Upah, an Iowa State dietetics student and co-president of the Iowa State Student Dietetics Association, was part of a community nutrition class attending the summit

“In class we explore how different counties in Iowa are dealing with hunger issues,” she says. “The summit gave us insight into what is happening in Iowa, throughout the United States and the world and provided ideas about programs we could implement in our association.”

Catherine Swoboda (’08 agronomy, ’10 MS crop production and physiology) serves as director of Iowa and Midwest Education Programs for The World Food Prize Foundation and organized the summit. She received the Iowa State Alumni Association’s Outstanding Young Alumni Award last fall.

“Iowa State faculty members are spectacular examples of the research and efforts improving access to food and improving the livelihoods of people in our state and around the world,” Swoboda says.

In addition to the annual summit, Swoboda created the Iowa Youth Institute, a joint initiative between the World Food Prize and Iowa State University to encourage high school students to confront global challenges in agriculture and environmental sustainability.

At the institute, which takes place each April, high school students present research and recommendations on how to solve key global challenges. While on campus they interact with global leaders in science, industry and policy during educational sessions and interactive tours. They connect with other students from across Iowa to share ideas and identify solutions while building lasting friendships.

“Iowa State has been an important partner in making the institute a valuable program for future leaders who will help address hunger issues for our growing world,” Swoboda says.


A portrait of Neil E. Harl (’55 agriculture and life sciences education, PhD ’65 economics) has been installed in the Harl Commons, located in Curtiss Hall. Harl, Charles F. Curtiss Distinguished Professor in Agriculture and Life Sciences and emeritus professor of economics, and wife Darlene were the lead donors for the creation of the popular student-centered space which houses a café, student meeting areas, a public computer bank, lounge seating and study tables.


 Jim Blome, president and CEO of Bayer CropScience North America, presented the 2013 Carl and Marjory Hertz Lecture on Emerging Issues in Agriculture April 3 on the Iowa State University Campus. Blome’s (’85 agronomy and pest management) presentation is available via podcast.


Many CALS graduates and honorary alumni have been awarded university honors this year for service to the agricultural industry:

CALS Awards
Floyd Andre Award: David Morrison (’69 food technology, ’71 MS chemical engineering), Paradise Valley, Ariz.

Henry A. Wallace Award: Jim Blome (’85 agronomy and pest management), Raleigh, N.C.

Superior Achievement Award for Early or Mid-Career Alumni: Sarah A. Low (’02 public service and administration in agriculture), Arlington, Va.

Iowa State Alumni Association Awards

Outstanding Young Alumni Award

  • Matthew Leu (’99 animal science, ’07 MBA), Pewaukee, Wis.
  • Catherine Swoboda, (’08 agronomy, ’10 MS crop production and physiology), Des Moines, Iowa

STATEment Maker Award

  • Angela (Fredericks) Anderson (’05 public service and administration in agriculture), Ankeny, Iowa
  • Janelle Buxton (’05 agriculture and life sciences education), Des Moines, Iowa
  • Jill Madden (’10 genetics), Ames, Iowa
  • Jeremy Swanson (’05 agricultural systems technology), Lehigh, Iowa

Distinguished Alumni Award

  • Gerald A. Kolschowsky (’62 agricultural business), Sarasota, Fla.

Honorary Alumni Award

  • Jeff and Deb Hansen Iowa Select Farms, West Des Moines, Iowa
  • John T. Pesek, Jr. emeritus professor of agronomy, Ames, Iowa


By Ed Adcock


Aaron Gassmann says the challenge now for Iowa growers is the “mosaic” of rootworm populations, some of which are resistant to Bt while others are not. His lab is looking for insect pathogens that naturally kill the western corn rootworm and how they might be used in conjunction with other pest management practices.

Rootworms are developing a natural resistance to Bt corn, which is genetically engineered to produce insecticidal proteins derived from the bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis.

In many ways, the Bt resistance issue represents an intersection of Gassmann’s professional interests: agriculture, ecology and evolution.

“The study of insects in agriculture is a natural way to address these different topics, because the development of pest resistance is so important to agriculture and such a natural application of evolutionary theory,” he says.

Born and raised in Dubuque, Gassmann traveled to universities from coast to coast earning degrees and research experience in biology, chemistry, mathematics, ecology and evolution. He earned his doctorate from the State University of New York and joined the faculty at Iowa State in 2008. His appointment is mostly devoted to research, but he also teaches classes in integrated pest management, plant-insect interactions and population genetics.

The cases he uncovered of rootworm resistance to Bt are unfortunate, he says, but not surprising given the insect’s adaptability.

“The western corn rootworm has a very limited rate of dispersal, which has been conducive to the development of resistance. Farmers were in essence conducting selection experiments over the 13 million acres of corn in Iowa,” he says.

The first cases of resistance were found in Northeast Iowa, from fields of continuous corn where the same Bt corn hybrid had been used for at least three years. Laboratory studies had predicted resistance when three or more generations of insects were exposed to Bt corn.

Gassmann says Bt corn is a very valuable technology mainly because it reduces the use of some conventional insecticides.

“Basically, Bt corn reduces the environmental footprint of agriculture. But one of the concerns of planting Bt crops is maintaining its effectiveness,” he says.

The challenge now for Iowa

growers is that there is a “mosaic” of rootworm populations a

cross the landscape, some of which are resistant to Bt while others are susceptible.

“This complicates management for growers,” he says. “So a lot of my work is understanding the scope of the problem, the risk that is associated with additional cases of resistance and then how farmers can go about managing the pest in this more complex landscape.”

“The Iowa corn farmer welcomes a better understanding of how rootworms evolve under Bt pressure for long-term sustainability and to maximize the valuable technology currently available,” says Rodney Williamson, Iowa Corn director of research and business development. “The research Dr. Gassmann is conducting is an important tool in the farmer’s toolbox when developing the most effective management systems for rootworm control.”

Gassmann’s lab also is looking at the community of insect pathogens in the soil—naturally occurring ones that kill the western corn rootworm—to determine how common and important they are, but also how they might be used in conjunction with other pest management practices, such as Bt corn.


By Ed Adcock

Change has been a constant, personally and professionally, since Angela Shaw returned to Iowa State in 2011.


Angela Shaw and John Dzubak, one of Shaw’s graduate students, check the progress of beets grown for a horticulture class group project.

As an extension food safety specialist Shaw serves as the point person helping Iowa farmers and food manufacturers deal with changes required by the Food Safety Modernization Act. The federal law updated ways food producers protect consumers from contamination. Shaw teaches short courses, holds webinars and does professional development for growers and manufacturers.

She married soon after taking her post as assistant professor in food science and human nutrition, changing her name. Last September she gave birth to a son. Her sleep patterns have since changed dramatically.

And although she was returning to her alma mater (’03 animal science, ’06 MS meat science), the climate was quite a change from Texas where she earned a doctorate at Texas Tech University in animal science with an emphasis in food safety and microbiology.

“Education about best practices is important for our newest generation of food scientist and future growers,” she says.

Iowa food processors have welcomed Shaw’s help. Kellen Longenecker, manager of the General Mills facility in Carlisle, says, “From the first plant visit to the Safety Day we hosted for our entire plant population, she proved to be an invaluable resource to building our food safety training.”

Adoption of the food safety law has been difficult for many in the food industry, requiring them to make changes—more paperwork, accountability and verification—that increases costs, she says.

“There are a lot of questions,” Shaw says,“but the changes are better for food safety.”

Shaw’s research covers pre- and post-harvest handling of fruits and vegetables. She studies bulk grains and further processing, like juices and additives incorporated into foods.

She and her team of students are working on projects including an evaluation of sanitizing rinses for cantaloupe and watermelon to see which are most effective against major pathogens and an online food safety module for school gardens and university gardens.

An aquaponics project to test the possibility of growing fish, leafy greens and basil in water is just getting started. The water will be rotated throughout, moving from the fish tank to fertilize the greens, then going to the basil section.

“My portion is the food safety, but we’re also looking at the economics of it as well as the quality of the product produced. There are a lot of opportunities to bring fish to Iowa and not have to worry about winter. We could use barns and buildings, converting them to these units,” she says.

Shaw marvels at the opportunities she’s experienced since returning to Iowa State. The transition from Texas was eased by friends who were still in the Ames area.

“A lot of the people I work with now were my teachers and mentors, so it was a wonderful fit for me to come back,” she says.

NEWS FROM CAMPUS – Vol. 8 No.1, 2014


Jenna Tesdall, junior in global resource systems and biology, was elected president of the International Association of students in Agricultural and Related Sciences

Bailey Morrell, senior in agricultural studies, was elected national president of Students of Agronomy, Soils and Environmental Sciences


Mike Duffy, professor of economics, retired in April

William Edwards (’69 agricultural economics, ’71 MS, ’79 PhD), professor of economics, retired in June

Roger Elmore, professor of agronomy, retired in January

Cornelia Flora, professor of sociology, retired in May

Jan Flora, professor of sociology, retired in June

Hank Harris, professor of animal science, retired in January

James Kliebenstein, professor of economics, retired in May


Andrew VanLocke, assistant professor of agronomy

Georgeanne Artz, (’05 PhD economics), assistant professor of economics

Christopher Currey, assistant professor of horticulture

Shawn Dorius, assistant professor of sociology


Iowa State University has been ranked fifth in the world among universities in the area of agriculture and forestry by a Quacquarelli Symonds (QS) World University Rankings. Last year, Iowa State ranked 10th among universities in agriculture and forestry.


Maynard Hogberg (’66 agricultural and life sciences education, ’72 MS animal science, ’76 PhD), professor and chair of the Iowa State University Department of Animal Science was honored with the 2014 distinguished service award from the National Pork Board for his contributions to the industry.


John Downing, ecology, evolution and organismal biology and agricultural and biosystems engineering, was awarded the Naumann-Thienemann medal by the International Society of Limnology. The award is the highest honor that can be bestowed internationally for outstanding scientific contributions to limnology.


William Edwards (’69 agricultural business,’71 MS agricultural economics, ’79 PhD), emeritus professor in economics, received the Carl F. Hertz Distinguished Service in Agriculture Award by the American Society of Farm Managers and Rural Appraisers. Edwards also was awarded the Gold Quill Award.


Bob Rust, emeritus professor of animal science, received the 2013 American Meat Science Association R.C. Pollock Award. Rust is the first Iowa State professor to receive the award, which is the highest honor bestowed in the association and represents exceptional contributions to meat science and the organization.


Agricultural Business Quiz Bowl Team: first place

Block and Bridle Club: first place, pride of schools: first place, chapter year book; third place, club activities; third place, webpage, National Block & Bridle Convention

Crops Judging Team: second place overall: first place, Ag Knowledge Bowl, North American Colleges and Teachers of Agriculture Crops Contest

Dairy Judging Team: fifth place, National Dairy Cattle Judging Contest

Fisheries and Wildlife Club: first place, Wildlife Society Midwest Student Conclave Quiz Bowl

Food Products Development Team: second place, Dairy Research Institute’s new product competition

Livestock Judging Team: first place, Iowa Beef Expo; first place (reasons division), Nebraska Cattleman’s Classic; second place, Sioux Empire Farm Show; third place, National Barrow Contest

Meat Judging Team: first place, Southeastern Intercollegiate Meat Judging Contest; fourth place, ISU Intercollegiate Meat Judging Contest

National Agri-Marketing Association: second place, NAMA Agri-Marketing Competition; first place, John Deere Signature Award; second place, Outstanding Student Chapter Award

Pre-Veterinary Medicine Club: hosted the National American Pre-Veterinary Medical Association Symposium


By Barbara McBreen


Alexandria Harvey spent one semester in Venice studying soils. During her four years at Iowa State University, Harvey traveled to Austria, Italy, Spain, Germany, Switzerland, Czech Republic, Slovenia and Slovakia.

What happens when your plans change from attending a college in E

urope to Iowa State University? Texas native Alexandria Harvey would describe it as a whirlwind of opportunity.

Not only did Harvey (’14 environmental sciences and global resource sy

stems) learn about farming in Iowa, she also learned her great grandparents had farmed in Iowa. Last fall she visited the farm where her great grandparents farmed near Le Roy, Iowa, which is the second smallest town in Io

wa with 15 residents.

“When I came to Ames I found connections to my roots,” Harvey says. “My great grandparents lived and farmed in Iowa. I also learned that my aunt and uncle (Mike Harvey, ’88 animal science) met here and got married under the campanile.”

Enid Reyes, a minister in Rockwall, Texas, says having her daughter in Iowa wasn’t the plan. Harvey had planned to attend college in Europe, but found that Iowa State offered numerous study abroad opportunities and scholarships.

“Iowa State offered the best of both worlds, so I enrolled without ever seeing the university,” Harvey says.

Reyes can’t imagine her daughter anywhere else. She’s been so impressed by Iowa and the university’s service to students and parents, she heads north as often as she can.

Reyes recently set up and opened Grace Center for Family and Community Development in Rockwall. She was pleased to see her daughter follow a similar path of community betterment in Ames.

For the past year Harvey has served on the Ames City Council as the ex-officio student representative between the city and Iowa State University. Harvey says she was excited to see one of her projects make the two-year list of goals for the city.

“I sent out rental housing surveys and sat in on planning sessions. Addressing housing issues is listed as one of the goals for the City of Ames,” Harvey says. “I was excited to get that on the list as one of the city’s tasks.”

Serving on the council seemed like a fun thing to try, but she says it changed her perspective and her career path.

“It’s shaped my future. It’s crazy, because now I’m really interested in the role local government plays when it comes to resources. If you have good government everything else follows,” Harvey says. “The biggest indicator of food security is good government.”

An interest in food security led Harvey to an agronomy internship with Rafael Martinez-Feria, a graduate research assistant. Part of her internship involved collecting and comparing data on the effects of cover crops on erosion. She’d never worked with soil and plants before landing the internship.

“I didn’t know a major like agronomy existed,” Harvey says. “I got involved with the student organic farms. I did research at the Agronomy Farm, and I really enjoyed it.”

Mentoring also is something Harvey found at Iowa State. For the past three years she’s worked with Pat Miller, Iowa State Lectures program director. That’s how Harvey found out about the student position on the Ames city council.

“Alexandria quickly learned how important it was to take advantage of her opportunities to interact with visiting scholars, public officials and professionals,” Miller says.

The Lectures Programs hosts more than 130 speakers on campus each year. As a member of the University Committee on Lectures and co-chair of the World Affairs Series planning committee, Harvey says the program helped her build confidence.

“I got to talk to and have dinner with my idol Michael Mann, climatologist and Penn State Earth System Science Center director,” says Harvey.

Since graduation, Harvey has spent the summer in Texas. Next fall she will begin a fellowship to work on her master’s in public administration and a professional master’s in environmental science at the School of Public and Environmental Affairs at Indiana University in Bloomington.

“I think water resource management will be the next big issue. It plays into every segment of development and agriculture. Water is central to everything,” she says. “The professor I want to work with has research in Latin America and works with municipalities, so I feel like it will be a good transition.”

Harvey says she’ll miss Iowa State and Ames, but the roots she discovered here have helped her move on to a world of opportunity.



Iowa State University supporters Maury and Martha Kramer are among the donors who fund the Borlaug-Thomson internship. Pictured with a statue of Borlaug in Cresco are (left to right) Ann Staudt, Iowa Learning Farms; Matt Helmers, agricultural engineering; Jason Geiken, Iowa State University Foundation; Wendy Wintersteen, dean; Maury Kramer (‘65 MS agricultural education); Martha Kramer; David Acker, associate dean; Christina Riessen, Borlaug intern; and Dan Doeing, Borlaug intern.

By Christina Riessen and Barbara McBreen

Norman Borlaug won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1970 for his role in alleviating hunger worldwide. For the past six summers, Iowa State University students have interned at Borlaug’s boyhood home to preserve the grounds and share his story.

The story is inspiring. Borlaug (1914-2009) was an Iowa native and agricultural scientist who grew up on a farm near Cresco. He developed disease resistant wheat, which saved millions of lives during the 1960s and ’70s.

Last summer Dan Doeing, (’13 agriculture and life sciences education), received the internship and spent his summer sharing Borlaug’s story.

Along with planting and maintaining the garden at the farm, Borlaug-Thomson interns assist with the Howard County Fair, lead Borlaug farm tours and work with both the Norman Borlaug Heritage Foundation and the Iowa State University Howard County Extension office.

The Borlaug-Thomson internship is funded by Jack and Fran Thomson and Maury (’65 MS agricultural education) and Martha Kramer—friends of Borlaug and supporters of the Norman Borlaug Heritage Foundation.

“Working to preserve the legacy of such an accomplished individual made the internship rewarding,” Doeing says.

Borlaug’s belief that every child in the world should be well fed and have the opportunity to pursue an education was a key message in Doeing’s presentations to visitors to the Borlaug farm. One of Doeing’s favorite stories involved Borlaug’s choice between baseball and forestry.

Borlaug wanted to be a high school science teacher and athletic coach. He also dreamed of becoming second baseman for the Chicago Cubs, but he chose forestry.

“I remember vividly the day when I finally decided that I had to do one of two things—play baseball or be a forester because we had afternoon laboratories in forestry. You couldn’t do both,” said Norman Borlaug, as told in an audio history by Wessel’s Living History Farms.

“The first child yelled ‘Worm!’ which quickly became a victory cry that echoed through the garden,” Doeing says. “I was ecstatic that so many kids were interested in learning about Borlaug and agriculture. These are the future leaders of our world and it is essential that they understand the basics of agriculture.”

The student interns play an important role in Inspire Day, hosted by the Norman Borlaug Heritage Foundation Board. The interns facilitate a teaching station about Borlaug’s life at the program, which attracts more than 200 children from regional schools. The day is held in conjunction with Cresco’s annual Borlaug Harvest Fest and teaches students about agriculture, science, history and Borlaug’s life.

Inspire Day was started by Barb Schwamann, president of the Iowa Borlaug Heritage Foundation, seven years ago.

“Barb’s tireless leadership for the Inspire Day has meant a lot to me and our faculty who have participated in hands-on educational activities for local fifth graders,” says Wendy Wintersteen, Dean of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.

“Inspire Day allows young people who come to Dr. Borlaug’s farm to catch the excitement of a future that may include walking in this great agricultural scientist’s footsteps,” Wintersteen says. “In the end, that’s the success of the partnership— measured by the wonderful faces of the students who visit the farm. Their thank-you notes are unforgettable.”

David Acker, associate dean of academic and global programs, says it’s important for students to know about Norman Borlaug.

“This internship provides an opportunity to inspire the next generation of agricultural scientists, which was a passion of Norman Borlaug,” Acker says. “It is one of the most prestigious internships offered in theCollege of Agriculture and Life Sciences.”

The internship introduces students to Borlaug’s legacy and helps them share that legacy with others. Only students in Iowa State’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences are eligible for the internship. The awardees receive a $3,000 scholarship, a housing stipend and an eight- to 10-week paid position.


I was born and raise1781d in Kansas, but Iowa is my home. I’ve come to know Iowa as a very special place. It’s where I’ve spent much of my life and career.

It is a privilege to serve as the dean of agriculture at Iowa’s land grant university, on behalf of the education we provide to our tremendous students and for the research and extension we provide to Iowans working hard every day on behalf of Iowa’s leading industry.

That’s why it was gratifying to learn Iowa State was ranked fifth worldwide for institutions of agriculture and forestry in the 2014 QS World University Rankings. The rankings rely strongly on reputation, as informed by survey responses of tens of thousands of employers and academic peers. The rankings also take into account citations of scientific papers, another strong indicator of the standing of our faculty and our college in the eyes of the world.

Recognition like this reflects well on the state of Iowa’s values and commitment to agriculture and education. It highlights Iowa State’s commitment to excellence in education and opportunity, science and innovation and extension and service. I believe it’s what continues to draw students in growing numbers. We now have the third largest undergraduate student body in agriculture and life sciences in the country.

We work hard to earn our reputation every day, in service to the state, the world and our students’ futures. That’s the Iowa way.

Wendy Wintersteen

Endowed Dean of Agriculture and Life Sciences


We’re all Iowans. 1762

Our time on campus unites us all as Iowans, if only for a few years.

When I interview alumni, especially those from out of state, I always ask them what drew them to Iowa State and what made their time in Ames special. Some mention the picturesque, quiet and safe campus or the legacy of agriculturalists like George Washington Carver. Overwhelmingly, they say it’s the people.

The professors and advisers on campus, but also the people in the community are what they say makes Iowa so “nice”—a word that has come to be known as the Midwest phenomenon “Iowa nice.” And for that, they can forgive our weather.

As a land grant university, serving our state is in our collective DNA. It’s what we were made to do. So, finding ways to improve the lives of Iowans is always at the forefront. In this issue you’ll read about partnerships working to ensure clean water for Iowans, how we’re battling pests that threaten our urban and rural landscapes and how extension and outreach programs are providing timely, relevant programming.

There are stories of native Iowans and Iowans by choice. Erich Hodges’ entire family decided to settle here after getting acquainted with “Iowa nice.” He joins approximately 70 percent of the college’s graduating class who start their careers and begin to build a life in Iowa. Building up our state allows us not only to serve Iowans, but also to lay a strong foundation that equips Iowans to serve the world.

It happened to me. It’s happened to many of you over the years. My major changed its name.

No longer will undergrads have to work to cram “public service and administration in agriculture” into tiny boxes on applications or spend half of their allotted introduction time explaining what PSA stands for.

I have to admit, I’m a bit nostalgic for PSA but the new name—agriculture and society— is a much better representation of the diverse degree that consists of cores in sociology, political science, economics and agriculture. It will be better for recruiting students and for catching the eye of potential employers. Plus, it just fits better in the little white boxes.

Kind regards,

Melea Reicks Licht

ONLINE EXTRAS, Spring 2014

Page 2-3 – Iowa Connections

Page 12 – Learn more about the agriculture and society major

Page 13 – Read about Paul Lasley’s Iowa connections

Page 16 – Learn more about programs working for clean water for Iowa

Page 23 – Read more about how ash trees from Iowa State University campus are finding new life.

Page 27 – Hear more from Matt Eddy in his entry to the U.S. Department of Education Blog

Page 37 – Jim Blome, president and CEO of Bayer CropScience, presented 2014 Hertz Lecture Podcast (MP3)

Page 33 – Get an inside look at the Hodge’s farm

Page 40 – Cook corn judging trophy

Make a gift to CALS

Like CALS on Facebook

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21,000 College of Agriculture and Life Sciences alumni live in Iowa

Extension-sponsored events attract Iowans for training in agricultural production; food safety and human nutrition; and to improve their families

State total =211,227

Extension works with food manufacturing, farm machinery and equipment manufacturing companies to improve their operations

State total clients served = 130

State total dollar impact = $91,237,017

75% of College of Agriculture and Life Sciences students are from Iowa

97% College of Agriculture and Life Sciences overall placement rate

70% of College of Agriculture and Life Sciences grads stayed in Iowa for first employment experience

Iowa Agriculture:

  • Iowa is second nationally in agriculture exports, valued at more than $7 billion
  • Iowa ranks first in the nation in corn, soybean, pork and egg production
  • Iowa ranks fourth in cattle on feed, eighth in sheep shorn and ninth in turkey
  • Iowa has 11,000+ soil types making up some of the richest, most productive land in the world
  • Iowa produces 25% of the country’s supply of ethanol, twice as much as any other state



Extension and Outreach gives Iowa State a 99 county campus. Nearly 1,000 faculty and staff on campus and across the state and 100 county extension offices


NORTHWEST: CALS Students: 320; Alumni: 794; Extension Assisted: 144,500


The Beginning Farmer Center celebrates 20 years of helping Iowa farm families, like the Schroeders, gain the skills and information they need to keep the farm in the family and continue building the family legacy. Meet the Schroeders at http://www.extension.iastate.edu/content/farm-succession-workshops.


NORTH CENTRAL: CALS Students: 963; Alumni: 1,518; Extension Assisted: 172,090


Annie’s Project is designed to help farm women, like Sandra Laubenthal of Kossuth County, manage all five areas of agriculture risk: financial, human resources, legal, marketing and production. Meet Laubenthal and learn more about the program at http://www.fromthefield.com/?s=Annie%27s+Project.


NORTHEAST: CALS Students: 606; Alumni: 1,092; Extension Assisted: 259,270


Iowa State University Extension and Outreach hosts field days to demonstrate practices and management techniques throughout Iowa. In Dyersville, one such program helps small dairies and beef feedlots address potential water quality impacts of runoff from outside open lot areas. Learn more at http://www.extension.iastate.edu/article/northeast-iowa-dairy-and-beef-manure-tour-nov-19


SOUTHEAST: CALS Students: 595; Alumni: 1,083; Extension Assisted: 317,000


Iowa State Extension’s Value Added Agriculture program helps support community projects like Market on Main in Ottumwa, Iowa. A vacant business in downtown Ottumwa was recently renovated into a year round indoor market focused on local food, which will allow producers to better connect with consumers. Visit Market on Main at


SOUTHWEST: CALS Students: 863; Alumni: 1,559; Extension Assisted: 357,630


Iowa State University’s research farm network, powered by local associations, serves as an outlet for conducting trials and sharing research results across the state. The Armstrong Memorial Research and Demonstration Farm is home to research on crop and forage management, nutrient application and All-American Variety Selection. Check out this farm and others at http://www.ag.iastate.edu/farms/armstrong.php.



The Legacy of the CALS Brand

– By Paul Lasley, Professor and Chair Department of Sociology, Department of Anthropology

Even though I was never a student in the ISU College of Agriculture and Life Science, it nevertheless played a pivotal role in my education and career. I am a proud alum of the University of Missouri, but my career was greatly influenced by some ISU College of Agriculture alumni. Let me explain.

Like other high school graduates in the late 1960s and early 1970s, I was caught up in the confusion surrounding the Vietnam War protests, the civil rights movement and civil unrest of the time. The draft was in full force, and many young men in my cohort enlisted rather than be drafted into combat. Unlike my older brother who enlisted in the Air Force a year earlier to avoid being drafted, by the luck of the lottery I received a high number so there was only a small chance that I would be drafted, so I went off to the University of Missouri. Little did I know how at the time that alumni of College of Agriculture at Iowa State University would have an indelible influence on my education and eventually my career.

The transition from a small high school with graduating class of 24 students to a major university of 22,000 or so students was daunting. However, my first encounter with an ISU alum was in first day of my freshman year in the fall of 1970 when I went to see my academic advisor Ken Larson (‘54 agriculture and life sciences education, ’59 MS agronomy, ’61 PhD) who was a relatively new faculty member in the Department of Agronomy. Larson was the first of several mentors that were ISU CALS alumni that helped steer my career and professional development. A native of Iowa, Larson could identify with the culture shock I must have been experiencing during the first weeks on campus and he reached out and assured me that I could make the transition.

When I needed a part time job, Larson referred me to the Department Chair of Agronomy, who happened to also be ISU College of Agriculture alum Roger Mitchell (’54 agronomy, ’58 MS, ’61 PhD). For four years as an undergraduate student, I was able to work in the corn genetics lab. Drs. Larson and Mitchell made sure that I survived that freshman year in an alien environment, much different than my hometown. I remember telling my parents that there were more students in my dormitory than the population of the largest town in our county.

When I needed to fill my social science requirement, Larson recommended that I enroll in Introductory Rural Sociology. By happenstance or good fortune the professor in that course was Bill Heffernan (’61 agricultural business) also had roots deep in the ISU College of Agriculture. A native of Black Hawk County, Heffernan received his degree in CALS before he began graduate school at the University of Wisconsin. I must have stood out in that course, since Heffernan encouraged me to take additional rural sociology courses. In the sequence of rural sociology courses, I enrolled in Social Change and Development, taught by yet another College of Agriculture alum who earned all three of his degrees from Iowa State, Daryl Hobbs.

It was through the encouragement and mentoring of Bill Heffernan and Daryl Hobbs that I entered graduate school in 1974 and spent the next seven years working alongside of them as I earned by masters and doctorate. Both Daryl and Bill served on my master’s and doctorate committees. When I joined the ISU faculty in 1981, I found a rural sociology faculty steeped in the tradition of welcoming and caring for students and in my case new faculty.

Gerald Klonglan was the department chair, an ISU graduate (’58 rural sociology, ‘62 MS, ’63 PhD) who made the phone call in 1981 offering me a faculty position at ISU. But other CALS alums who were on the faculty that made me feel at home included Joe Bohlen (’47 farm operations, ’48 MS rural sociology, ’54 PhD) John Tait (’64 MS rural sociology, ’70 PhD) and Ron Powers. Each of these ISU CALS alumni commencing with Ken Larson dating back to my first day on the University of Missouri campus shared a common set of values about helping others succeed.

Over the years, I came to learn that all CALS alumni are ingrained with the philosophy of reaching out to others. My personal journey highlights the significant contribution that Iowa State University College of Agriculture alumni played in providing opportunities for me and many others.

With all the recent attention on branding, marketing and social media, the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences has long been at the forefront in expressing its own form of inclusiveness and encouragement. There were many times when I personally benefited from the advice and support of these CALS alums. Just as these alumni reached out and helped me as a student and later as a junior faculty member, I have tried to pass along this legacy in my 33-year career at ISU. The trademark of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences alumni is about helping others.


By Dana Woolley

Lie Tang (right) talks with Ken Blackledge about how his robot will be designed to aid organic farmers. Blackledge owns and operates Black Cat Acres in Nevada, Iowa, with his wife and children.

Lie Tang (right) talks with Ken Blackledge about how his robot will be designed to aid organic farmers. Blackledge owns and operates Black Cat Acres in Nevada, Iowa, with his wife and children.

Lie Tang’s research in field robotics offers a glimpse into the future of organic agriculture.

Tang, an associate professor in the Department of Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering, develops robotics technologies for intra-row weed removal in vegetable crops. He hopes that by perfecting this technology, he can design an automated robot to lower the level of labor and chemical inputs in small to mid-sized growing operations for farmers who are looking for environmentally friendly weeding alternatives.

Tang, a native of China, was drawn to Iowa State University in 2004 by the reputation of the agricultural and biosys­tems engineering department as being on the forefront of agricultural innovation. “This is one of the best places in the world for agricultural robotics and automation,” he says.

Robotic response

After talking with Iowa growers of small to mid-size vegetable plots, Tang recognized a hole in current weeding approaches that robotics could fill.

“Weeding has been a long-standing problem for many years because there is no silver bullet—there are just too many variables. And for organic farmers, their options are very limited. Their options are either chemical, laborious or expen­sive,” says Tang. “My robot design offers the producer a more effective and sustain­able alternative.”

For organic farmer Ken Blackledge, owner of Black Cat Acres in Nevada, Iowa, the battle with weeds occupies much of his time and energy.

“If a robot could weed a diverse crop planting and be cost effective I would be interested. Management of weeds is one of the biggest challenges I face. The costs involved take resources away from crop development, time needed to market and other more productive activities,” says Blackledge.

A key part of the small weeding robot is the sensing system used to distinguish produce from weed. Real-time vehicle location in reference to plants, rows and landscape will be monitored and adjusted based on two-dimensional and three-dimensional data.

“There are other, larger weeding robots on the market. But these are designed for much larger growing operations and require high accuracy GPS systems—few farmers in Iowa can buy that type of equipment,” says Tang. “The robot will take pictures with three-dimensional sensors to provide more robust information than a conven­tional camera.”

The time of flight of light data will be used to calculate distance, and give a picture of what types of plants are growing in the row. If a weed is found, the small actuators on the robot disturb the soil around the crop and within the row, removing any weeds mechanically without disturbing the crop. The small robot will be designed to travel over planting rows without disturbing the seeded crops, such as carrots, beans, lettuce, sweet corn and many other vegetable crops.

By getting as close as possible to the plants, the robot is able to autonomously remove weeds without the use of herbicides or plastic sheeting while increasing production.

Technology that transforms

Kathleen Delate, professor of horticulture and co-principal investigator, has been enthusiastic about the potential the project holds for organic farmers. She says that not only does the robot offer alternatives to herbicides, it also considers the importance of soil structure.

“Robotic technology for weeding offers promising options for all producers by decreasing labor to manage weeds but also potentially alleviating soil compaction that could occur with tillage. Organic producers especially are interested in this technology because herbicides are disallowed in organic production, and with the increasing problem of herbicide resistance, more and more producers will be looking for alternatives,” says Delate.

Tang’s research group and collaborators had originally manufactured a larger, slightly more cumbersome robot that served as inspiration for the new, smaller and more aesthetic design. “In this generation of robot, we are integrating sensing and controls together to fine tune the robot’s capabilities,” says Brian Steward, professor of agricultural and biosystems engineering and co-principal investigator. “This technology is potentially transforming.”

The future is now

As Steward explains, automation and sensors are developing rapidly. Precision agriculture technologies are quickly being adopted, and thus transforming the farming lifestyle and industry. In order for these technologies to run properly and be maintained, the next generation of agricultural engineer is being trained early to embrace robotics.

“My sons are participating in FIRST robotics competitions,” says Steward. “Students are learning to design robots as children. As they move forward in their education, it increases our society’s aptitude with robotics. If we are going to adopt robots in agriculture, we need people who can build and repair them. That’s happening now.”

As the project moves forward, Tang recognizes there will be obstacles, including economic feasibility. However, he’s proud of the attention his peers have given his work—this marks one of the first times agricultural field robotics has been included in an organic agriculture related grant.

Pioneering innovative and technologically advanced research has been a staple in the department since it’s inception in 1905. It is the birthplace of the first large round baler and whirlwind terrace plow. Over the years, scientists and professors in the department have served as leading investigators of farm mechanics, post harvest grain, farmstead structures and natural resources, proven by their many patents. A feat Tang is eager to replicate.

At this early stage of research and design, it’s hard to tell if Tang’s robot will find a place among other inventions to come out of the agricultural and biosystems engineering department. But with his team, passion and advancing robotics technology it’s not hard to imagine.


By Lynn Laws

Gene Takle, director of Iowa State’s Climate Science Program, has been studying climate change for more than 20 years. His predictions are proving to ring true as carbon dioxide, warming and precipitation continue to increase.

Gene Takle, director of Iowa State’s Climate Science Program, has been studying climate change for more than 20 years. His predictions are proving to ring true as carbon dioxide, warming and precipitation continue to increase.

Twenty-two years ago Gene Takle’s first study on climate change in Iowa was published in the Iowa Academy of Sciences. Using a NASA climate model, he explored a future climate scenario where carbon dioxide was doubled.

Referring to the study’s predictions, Takle, professor of agronomy and director of Iowa State’s Climate Science Program, says, “It showed there would be a general warming, more in the winter than summer; that’s happening. More at night than during the day; that’s happening. Three percent more precipitation; that’s happening—actually it’s been a little bit more than that. It also showed there would be a shift toward more precipitation in the spring and early summer and less in the fall and winter. We now have 13 percent more precipitation in the spring and early summer and 22 percent less in fall and winter than 50 years ago.”

Since that 1991 study, Takle and his graduate students have researched a multi­tude of climate-related issues. These include studying the impact of climate change on soil carbon; stream flow in the Mississippi River; United States food security; and the productivity of wind farms, an alternative to carbon-based fossil fuels.

“We’re conducting studies of a 200 turbine wind farm, for example,” says Takle. “We’ve measured wind speed in the vicinity of the wakes of the turbines. It’s what we would expect. There’s about a 30 percent speed reduction in the wind after the air has gone through the turbines. So our question is, if these guys take out a lot of energy, what about neighboring turbines? Will they experience a lower wind power? Indeed, they do.”

Takle says now their studies are connecting the meteo­rology to the energy produced—what happens when the wind is directly out of the west, for example. Takle has already begun discussions with Iowa State aerospace engineers about utilizing the data being collected from his studies to design best placement of turbines within wind farms.

His multi-disciplined view has produced collaborative projects with people across campus, from architects studying building design, to civil engineers working on roadway construction, and people in agriculture and sociology on a variety of climate change issues. He is excited about using Iowa State’s new super computer, called Cyence, which is capable of running “huge climate models” to assess the impact of Iowa’s future climate on natural processes and built infrastructure, such as the state’s 4,100 bridges.

Takle sees a connection to climate change within every area of study at Iowa State. When he taught his global change course a few years ago, he set out to draw students from an assortment of disciplines. “On the first day I would tell them all, ‘You should study climate change, because you will have something important to say about it. There are lots of things we need to understand from an engineering point of view; wind energy is one of them. But even if your major is philosophy or political science—there are a lot of moral and ethical issues associated with climate change. If we don’t get the politics right, we’re not going to get the rest of it right. Tell me what your major is and I’ll show you a link to climate change.’”

Takle and colleague Jerry Hatfield, director of the National Lab for Agriculture and the Environment, are the convening lead authors of the agricultural chapter of the newest National Climate Assessment, a federally mandated report to be released in 2014.

“It will paint a sobering picture of climate change globally and its impacts on the U.S. One of the key messages of the report is that the incidence of weather extremes will continue and will have increasingly negative effects on crop and livestock productivity because critical thresholds are already being exceeded,” Takle says. “For example, in western Kansas they are finding they are unable to raise corn even under full, continued irrigation. They cannot pump enough water to keep up with the increasing evapotranspiration demand of the plant, which it uses to cool itself down.”

Hatfield says all you have to do is look at crop production in Iowa over the last four years to understand the sensitivity of a cropping system to climate and weather.

“In 2010 we had an extremely wet summer and some of the highest night- time temperatures in late July and in August, which caused reduced yields in both corn and soybeans. In 2011 we had a pretty good growing season; then it turned extremely dry late in the year.

Everybody remembers ‘The Drought of 2012.’ And 2013 started off really wet and turned out extremely dry,” Hatfield says. “We can expect to continue to experience extreme weather variability within and among seasons, resulting in increased variability in crop production.”

Regarding adaptation to climate change Hatfield says, “If climate changed in an orderly fashion, we could easily adapt and change practices, but we’re seeing more and more variation within and among years. Given the extreme variability we’re seeing, it will take great effort to figure out how we build resilient cropping systems.”

Takle says agricultural experiment stations were established to research and respond to problems such as climate change. “Rather than wringing our hands, we’ll work together to find ways to reduce the causes of climate change and develop ways to live with changes we can’t avoid. That’s what a land-grant university does.”


By Melea Licht


Mark Gleason and colleagues cut to the core managing costly apple diseases, improving profitability and consumer safety and confidence.

Mark Gleason and colleagues cut to the core managing costly apple diseases, improving profitability and consumer safety and confidence.

Advances in integrated pest management developed at Iowa State stand to improve profitability for apple growers, food safety for consumers and potentially transform how diseases are managed industry-wide.

Mark Gleason, professor of plant pathology, and his colleagues are working to refine methods of spraying fungicides that fight major fungal diseases including sooty blotch and flyspeck and fruit rots. Their methods use weather and plant biology to pick the best time for application, rather than predetermined dates independent of orchard conditions. The new methods reduce input costs as well as the amount of residue present on the fruit at harvest, which improves safety and consumer confidence.

“If left untreated the black spots caused by sooty blotch and flyspeck make fresh market sale impossible. The fruit is then only fit for the cider market—a loss of 90% of value,” Gleason says. “ And, growers could save $75/acre if three sprays per season are eliminated. Best of all, growers value saving time, since they don’t have to apply so many sprays late at night when wind speeds are low.”

The researchers also are working to activate a regional warning system that will keep producers informed and ready to take action against the costly diseases.

Fred and Robert Maytag approached Experiment   Station dairy microbiologists Clarence Lane and Bernard Hammer with a food challenge in 1937 that would transform cheesemaking.

Together they created the first American blue cheese using cow’s milk from the Maytag Dairy Farm, rather than the traditional sheep’s milk. The process is now known for producing the world’s finest blue cheese.

Charlie Hall didn’t expect his seedless watermelon varieties would transform an entire industry. But, that’s exactly what happened.

Hall’s watermelons, bred for disease resistance and flavor, allowed his varieties to thrive in various soil types and condi­tions rather than a limited geographic area, which was the norm for variety development at the time.

“We went from a locally-based, seasonal watermelon industry to an international, year-round industry,” he says. “I had no idea that someday we’d be able to enjoy watermelon 12 months of the year. It’s a revolution compared to the 1950s.”

His sweet, seedless varieties remain the leading commercial varieties and serve as parents for many commercial hybrids around the world, both seeded and seedless.

Hall, who served as chair of the Department of Horticulture from 1974 to 1990, also worked with industry partners to begin to name fruit based on qualities rather than geographic area. As a result, the “Crimson Sweet” was born, and melons began to be marketed from produce stands across the country.


Lauren Grant, a CALS junior in culinary science, accepted a tough challenge— to create a unique recipe based on food developed in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. She came up with two tasty dishes using Crimson Sweet or All Sweet watermelon, Maytag Blue Cheese and Chieftain apples (a cross of Jonathan and Red Delicious developed at Iowa State): CALS Creamy Blue Fruit Dip and CALS Sweet Blue Melon Salad.



By Melea Reicks Licht

Esmail Zirakparvar received a 2013 Distinguished Alumni Award presented by ISU Alumni Association president Jeff Johnson (right) and ISU president Steven Leath (left). His leadership is credited for helping Bayer CropScience become a global leader.

Esmail Zirakparvar received a 2013 Distinguished Alumni Award presented by ISU Alumni Association president Jeff Johnson (right) and ISU president Steven Leath (left). His leadership is credited for helping Bayer CropScience become a global leader.

Esmail Zirakparvar got off the plane in Des Moines from Iran in 1975 as a brutal blizzard gripped the Midwest. With him he had only one suitcase. It did not include a winter coat. Iowa State University drew him across the world to a country where he was unfamiliar with the language, and climate, because it was known as one of the top agricultural universities in the world and for welcoming and embracing those not fluent in English.

Zirakparvar (MS ’77 plant pathology,PhD ’79) was pleased to discover Iowa State’s reputation was true. In Don Norton, professor of plant pathology, he found a mentor and friend. He found a warm welcome.
Zirakparvar says Norton’s teaching provided the basis for a career that would come to include steering one of the world’s leading companies in crop protection, pest control and biotechnology—Bayer CropScience.
In Norton’s nematology lab Zirakparvar also found a partner for his journey. He met his wife, Mary, working alongside him in Norton’s lab. Mary earned a plant pathology master’s degree in 1980.
Zirakparvar’s research is credited for discovering the first known presence of soybean cyst nematode in Iowa. Cyst nematodes are damaging pathogens of plants worldwide. Soybean cyst nematodes cause an estimated loss of $1 billion dollars annually to U.S. soybean producers.
Upon leaving Iowa State Mary worked in nematology at Clemson University and North Carolina State University for several years. Esmail went on to lead and manage businesses for Union Carbide, Rhone-Poulenc Agro, Aventis CropScience and Bayer CropScience in North America, South America, Europe and the Asia Pacific countries.
During his time with Bayer Rhone Poulenc Agro in France, Zirakparvar oversaw technology transfer and management of a new compound now known commercially for one of its uses as Frontline, a flea and tick treatment for pets.
He says he enjoyed moving within the company to see how he could address different challenges. “I realized I could have more impact in management and leadership than in the lab,” Zirakparvar says.
As board member and chief operating officer of Bayer CropScience AG in Germany, Zirakparvar played a key role in the merger integration of the agricultural businesses of Aventis and Bayer in 2004.
“Dr. Zirakparvar was instrumental in growing Bayer CropScience to its current leading global position in agriculture,” says Thomas Baum, professor and chair of the plant pathology department at Iowa State. “He also ensured Bayer CropScience was a global player dedicated to solving food shortages through safe, improved crops and crop products that offer higher yields, more nutrition and fewer inputs.” Zirakparvar says it was the “no nonsense” attitude he learned at Iowa State that made his success possible.
“The foundation I learned at Iowa State was not to worry about politics and just get the job done. That is a huge, huge factor in successfully managing people. Don Norton not only guided my scientific development, he demonstrated a wonderful way to deal with people,” Esmail says. “I am fortunateto have trained under this legend in the field of nematology and this great example of true human dignity.”
Mary adds simply, “Esmail listens to people. If you don’t listen how will you ever know how to motivate them?” Zirakparvar retired as President and COO Chief Executive Officer of Bayer CropScience LP in 2006.
He smiles as he calls his career a “fantastic ride, not possible without the lady who was always next to me and followed me around the world twice.”
Since retiring, among other activities, Zirakparvar has stayed connected to agricultural fields. He has been part of Precision BioScience’s advisory board and in 2010 he joined American Vanguard Corporation, an agricultural products company, as a member of its Board of Directors.
Eric Wintemute, chairman and chief executive officer of American Vanguard says “Esmail’s tremendous international experience allows him to contribute significantly to our analysis of global agribusiness opportunities. His insights into the technological aspects of agriculture and pest control have aided us in strategic and acquisition decision-making.”
The Zirakparvars remain connected with Iowa State. They are members of the Order of Knoll President’s Circle and Campanile Society and members of the Iowa State Unviersiy Alumni Association.
In 2013, Esmail received the Distinguished Alumni Award, the highest honor given to alumni by the ISU Alumni Association. The award honors individuals nationally or internationally recognized for preeminent contributions to their professions or life’s work.
Esmail delivered a presentation at the Don C. Norton Lecture at Iowa State to honor his former professor in 2008. And they funded a research endowment in plant pathology and microbiology to honor Norton. The Zirakparvar Research Endowment in Plant Pathology is intended “to advance the excellence of research within the department to continue its world class reputation.”
“Earnings from this endowment could be used to recruit graduate students or for fellowship support to help attract excellent students,” Baum says. “That’s the challenge we all have—to get the best students. This will be a great tool to do that.”
Esmail says it’s important to help society advance and have a lasting impact in education.
“The discovery of something better— that’s the reason why we established the endowment,” he says. “And as a thank you for all Iowa State University has given us.”

Esmail Zirakparvar, retired chief operating officer, president and chief executive officer of Bayer CropScience, says it was the example of the late plant pathology professor Don Norton (at left) that taught him how to lead. Press him to share a few of Norton’s lessons and he offers these insights for successfully managing people:

  • Be genuine in what you say even if what you say isn’t to someone’s liking. They will respect you for it.
  • Respect people as equal to yourself. We are all human beings.
  • You owe it to those you work with to offer straight feedback.
  • Never ask people to do things you wouldn’t do yourself.
  • As a leader you have to ask what can I do for them not what can they do for me.
  • Honesty isn’t replaceable. Trust can move mountains.
  • You can’t spend time worrying about failing; you need to spend more time doing your best. Sometimes failure is an important component of the job—then admit when things don’t work and move on.
  • When not all team members agree on a task, there are two choices—you can be an obstacle, or you can see others’ point of view and move forward. If the others are proven wrong you will still be rewarded for your contribution.



salad_resize 2Vinaigrette Dressing:

  • ¼ cup white-wine vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • ½ teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 ½ teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 1 ½ teaspoons honey


  • Crimson Sweet or All Sweet Seedless Watermelon, thinly sliced
  • Cantaloupe, thinly sliced
  • 2 ounces prosciutto
  • 1 – 2 cups arugula
  • 1/2 small red onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 Cheiftain apple, thinly sliced
  • ¼ cup Maytag Blue cheese, crumbled
  • ¼ cup fresh parsley, chopped
  • ¼ cup toasted walnuts, chopped


Combine all dressing ingredients and whisk together to fully combine. Set aside.
Start assembling the salad by covering a large flat serving dish with sliced watermelon
and cantaloupe. Lay sliced prosciutto pieces over fruit followed by the
arugula. Top with sliced red onions, apple, blue cheese, parsley and walnuts.
Drizzle salad with vinaigrette until lightly dressed; you may not need it all.

* Note: Proscuitto is a salt cured ham and is often sliced very thinly.
It can be found packaged and sold in the refrigerated deli meats area.

By Lauren Grant, CALS junior in culinary science


By Virginia Zantow

Chia-Wei Chang, executive vice president of The Lauridsen Group, Inc. has grown the food and health ingredient company Proliant from its early days of incubation with the Center for Crops Utilization Research.

Chia-Wei Chang, executive vice president of The Lauridsen Group, Inc. has grown the food and health ingredient company Proliant from its early days of incubation with the Center for Crops Utilization Research.

Enter the Lauridsen Group’s research laboratory in Ankeny, Iowa, and you’ll find researchers developing new ways to make the raw ingredients of Iowa agriculture into ingredients for food and health products.

Space for benchtop and pilot plant research is essential for a food and health ingredient company like theirs. Before this laboratory was constructed in 2012, one place the group’s researchers conducted pilot plant experiments was at Iowa State.

The Center for Crops Utilization Research (CCUR) industry incubator in the food sciences building provided space and technology for benchtop and pilot plant research to Proliant. The company has been part of the Lauridsen Group, Inc. (LGI) holding group since the mid-1990s.

“We used the incubator because it helped us in the beginning when we were small,” says Chia-Wei Chang (MS ’81 meat science), the executive vice president of LGI, formerly the president and CEO of Proliant Meat Ingredients. “The CCUR industry incubator is important to small Iowa companies.”

The process Proliant researchers developed at CCUR involved recovering Bovine Serum Albumin, a protein from bovine blood in purified form so it could become a specialized material used in diagnostic, life science research, biopharmaceutical and veterinary vaccine industries. This process was perfected at CCUR, and Proliant built a plant in Boone, Iowa, to commercialize their production of the material.

Proliant now employs 40 people at the plant in Boone, and the company plans to build an identical plant in New Zealand. Proliant and LGI have grown exponentially since their CCUR days. The global reach of LGI now includes 49 plants and facilities in the United States, Europe, Asia and Latin America. When Proliant first started working with CCUR, the company owned two plants.

Lawrence Johnson, director of CCUR, says it is rewarding to watch small businesses develop new processes and products, commercialize and grow as companies.

“I don’t like just developing technology and putting it on the shelf,” Johnson says. “I like to see new products come out and go down a processing line.”

Johnson says what LGI does—create ingredients, as opposed to complete products—is something Iowa entrepreneurs have a unique opportunity to do.

The proximity of raw agricultural materials gives Iowans in the food industry opportunities to break apart those raw materials when they are fresh.

Chang agrees being in an agricultural state is good for his business.

“Fresh raw materials always equal higher quality products,” Chang says.

If fresh materials are a great starting point for an agriculture-based company, adding value to those materials by innovation is what grows a company.

“The reason companies can continue to grow is that they can add value to a product,” Chang says. “That’s why this new lab is important to our future growth.”

Proliant hires talented Iowa State alumni frequently to discover new ways to add value to their products.

Chang says companies like LGI need people with many different kinds of skills.

He says it’s important to know that scientists are not necessarily limited to working in a lab. His scientific background helped him sell Proliant’s products, but he has learned business skills along the way.

“What is most important is the learning mind,” Chang says.


The following awards are conferred at the ISUAA Honors and Awards Ceremony at Homecoming each fall. The 2013 Honors and Awards Ceremony, Nov. 8, marked the 82nd year of the event.
Outstanding Young Alumni Award by the ISU Alumni Association

  • Matthew Leu (’99 animal science, MBA ’07), Pewaukee, Wis.
  • Catherine Swoboda, (’08 agronomy, MS ’10 crop production and physiology), Des Moines, Iowa

Floyd Andre Award by the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences

  • David Morrison (’69 food technology, ’71 MS chemical engineering), Paradise Valley, Ariz.

Henry A. Wallace Award by the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences

  • Jim Blome (’85 agronomy and pest management), Raleigh, N.C.

George Washington Carver Distinguished Service Award by the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences

  • Jon E. Kinzenbaw, Williamsburg, Iowa

Superior Achievement Award for Early or Mid-Career Alumni by the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences

  • Sarah A. Low (’02 public service and administration in agriculture), Arlington, Va.

Andrew Lauver (’12 agricultural studies), a Frank Ross International Business Intern at DuPont Pioneer, was presented with Seed World Magazine’s 2013 Future Giant of the Seed Industry award at the American Seed Trade Association’s (ASTA) annual convention in June. Lauver was also nominated to serve on ASTA’s Seed Foundation Board.

Dick Arnold (’52 farm operations, PhD ’63 agronomy) received the 2013 Lomonosov Gold Medal from the Russian Academy of Sciences in recognition of more than 30 years of domestic and international work teaching about soil formation, erosion and conservation. Arnold worked for the U.S. Soil Conservation Service and through the U.S. Agency for International Development he worked with underdeveloped countries to expand the knowledge of soils.


Garren Benson (’71 PhD agronomy), died May 25. Benson served as an ISU Extension agronomist, specializing in corn and soybean production from 1964 until his retirement in 1996. He remained on the faculty in the agronomy department until 1999.

Roger Mitchell (’54 agronomy, ’61 PhD crop physiology) died June 4 after a prolonged illness with leukemia. Mitchell was director of the farm operations curriculum at ISU in the 1960s and led agriculture travel courses in the United States and Europe. He served as chair of agronomy at the University of Missouri, dean of University of Missouri Extension and vice president for agriculture at Kansas State University. From 1983 until his retirement in 1998, Mitchell served as dean of the College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources at the University of Missouri.

Kenneth Frey, distinguished professor emeritus in agronomy, died July 14. Frey served on the faculty for 40 years and was recognized both nationally and internationally as a plant breeder. In 2007, ISU established the Kenneth
Frey Endowed Chair in Agronomy, currently held by Thomas Lubberstedt.

Rich Robson (’64 animal science, ’66 MS biochemistry, ’69 PhD) died on Aug. 4. Robson served for more than 30 years as a professor in the departments of animal science and Roy J. Carver biochemistry, biophysics and molecular biology.

Thomas Wickersham (’41 animal science, ’54 MS) died Aug. 12. Wickersham was an emeritus professor of animal science at Iowa State University where he began teaching in 1950. He also served as an ISU Extension agent and sheep field specialist for many years.

Dick Thompson (’53 animal science, ’57 MS) died on Aug. 17. Thompson was a co-founder of Practical Farmers of Iowa. He was honored by the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture with the 2004 Spencer Award for Sustainable Agriculture.

The American Meat Science Association (AMSA) announced that Rodrigo Tarté is the recipient of the 2013 AMSA Meat Processing Award. The award, established in 1977, is sponsored by Smithfield Foods. Tarté (’87 food technology, ’90 MS, ’96 PhD food science and human nutrition and animal science) was honored at a special reception and awards banquet at the AMSA 66th Reciprocal Meat Conference in June.


By Haley Cook

Katherine Hickman (’10 food science) is a quality assurance specialist for Advanced Analytical Technologies in the Iowa State University Research Park.

Katherine Hickman (’10 food science) is a quality assurance specialist for Advanced Analytical Technologies in the Iowa State University Research Park.

Whether donning an apron to create delicious confections, or safety glasses to test the inner workings of scientific instruments, Katherine Hickman’s goal is the same— to ensure quality excellence.

By day, Katherine (Kleinwort) Hickman (’10 food science) is a quality assurance specialist for Advanced Analytical Technologies in the Iowa State University Research Park. By night, she helps prepare Ames Cupcake Emporium for battle on the national television stage on The Food Network show Cupcake Wars.

Hickman, a native of St. Ansgar, Iowa, began her journey at Iowa State University in 2007 after receiving her pastry and baking degree from Le Cordon Bleu College in Minneapolis, Minn. An avid baker since childhood, Hickman enjoyed the challenge of baking, “It’s chemistry at work,” she says. “If even one thing is slightly off the entire outcome is affected.”

In 2010, Hickman visited the newly opened Ames Cupcake Emporium, met owner Tawnya Zerr and created a lasting friendship and partnership.

According to Zerr, Hickman’s aptitude in the kitchen and knowledge of food science made her the obvious choice to help as the assistant baker on Cupcake Wars. “She’s great,” says Zerr. “She knows her way around a kitchen, and can problem solve.”

“Biology, chemistry, food science and quality are all things I learned in college,” says Hickman. “Ingredient interaction and quality control were especially helpful with Cupcake Wars.”

Those same skills led Hickman to her chosen career in quality assurance.

Advanced Analytical Technologies manufactures and sells an analytical instrument called the fragment analyzer. It is used by researchers in hospitals, museums and agricultural companies around the world to simultaneously measure the size and amount of DNA and RNA in samples. Samples can be used for a variety of research such as analyzing properties of DNA in seed corn.

Hickman describes the process, on a macro scale, as similar to sorting vegetables in a basket—vegetables are separated from one another and the quantity of each is determined.

“Iowa State owns two of our instruments for research in food science and human nutrition and molecular biology,” Hickman says. “And our machines are on six of the seven continents.” Hickman has enjoyed reconnecting with one of her favorite food science and human nutrition professors, Lester Wilson.

“I noticed the viscosity of the gel in one of our machines wasn’t correct; the DNA wasn’t being separated correctly,” she says. “We worked together to determine the correct viscosity of the gel, and develop new specifications for the product.”



By Melea Reicks Licht

Laynnea Jones, manager of quality, safety, health and environment works to make safety education fun and effective for L’Oreal employees.

Laynnea Jones, manager of quality, safety, health and environment works to make safety education fun and effective for L’Oreal employees.

Laynnea Jones smiles. One of her students, a distribution employee for L’Oreal, waves his hand to claim his prize. Jones knows that along with his prize he’ll take home more knowledge of safety rules and procedures that could save his life or prevent serious injury.

Jones (’04 industrial technology) is a manager of quality, safety, health and environment for L’Oreal—the world’s largest cosmetics and beauty company. Bingo is just one method she uses to make safety training fun at the distribution and assembly facility in Cranbury, N.J.

“My job is to engage employees of various backgrounds, educational levels and some for whom English is a second language in learning safety policies and procedures. Safety education can be difficult because of the complexity of regulations. Employees need to learn while having fun, but also take it seriously,” she says.

Jones also serves on an audit team for L’Oreal. She reviews the health, safety and quality compliance of the company’s distribution and manufacturing centers across the United States.

“We look for compliance to local, federal, state and L’Oreal standards, which are often the most stringent. We look at fire safety codes, eye wash stations compliance, housekeeping, safety validations and training programs in place,” she says. “Our visit prepares sites for third party safety audits and certifications and ensures they meet OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) requirements.”

Jones’ colleague, Jay Harf, says she maintains an impressive record of success.

“Her efforts resulted in nearly two years without a lost time accident as well as leading the site to the prestigious OHSAS 18001 International Safety Management Certification,” says Harf, assistant vice president of environment health and safety.

Setting records has always been a motivator for Jones, who attended Iowa State University on a full track scholarship. Despite being sidelined by injury, the New Jersey native lettered in track and remembers the kindness and “slow pace” of Iowa fondly.

“I never knew tailgating until I came to Iowa State University. And I’ll never forget storming the field after winning the Iowa (football) game. That probably wasn’t very safe,” she jokes.

She found the industrial technology major and emphasis in occupational safety and health in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences a perfect fit for her outgoing personality, interest in engineering and science and desire for hands-on experience.

Jones serves as secretary of her state chapter of the American Society of Safety Engineers and on a task force to charter student membership. She believes mentorship is key to success and is especially involved in Blacks in Safety Engineering and Women in Safety Engineering.

She is certified by the Board of Certified Safety Professionals as an Associate Safety Professional and is studying to become a Certified Safety Professional—the most prestigious Safety certification in the United States.

Jones says, “My motto is safety is not a destination, but a journey of continuous improvement. That can be true for any industry.”


By Lynn Laws

Delise Lockett received her master’s in 2012 researching the use of prairie within an agricultural system. Here she samples the ability of soil to absorb and hold moisture at the Neal Smith National Wildlife Refuge.

Delise Lockett received her master’s in 2012 researching the use of prairie within an agricultural system. Here she samples the ability of soil to absorb and hold moisture at the Neal Smith National Wildlife Refuge.

Iowa State faculty have been developing win-win management strategies for natural resource managers and agricultural landowners since offering the first forestry course in 1874.

Paul Errington’s work from the 1930s is still having impact today. Errington began his career at Iowa State in 1932 as assistant professor of zoology and director of the nation’s first Cooperative Wildlife Research Unit. He was known, along with Aldo Leopold, as one of the great pioneers in animal ecology.

One strategy he encouraged landowners to adopt is still encouraged—the conservation of natural areas for wildlife habitat and income through hunting and trapping or leasing those rights. Errington is best known for his research and writing that transformed the popular view of predators in the wild from noxious to necessary as part of the balance of nature.

Julie Blanchong, associate professor and wildlife disease ecologist, is one of 20-plus faculty members in the Department of Natural Resource Ecology and Management (NREM) currently carrying on the legacy of Errington and others before her.

“I have a variety of research projects across a variety of species, including white- tailed deer, bald eagles and bats, all because they address a practical problem right now,” says Blanchong.

Her expertise is in applying genetics to help natural resource managers anticipate, slow and stop the spread of diseases among wildlife in Iowa. “I use genetics to infer connectivity or dispersal rates across the landscape,” she says. “For example, how deer move and potentially bring disease into highly agricultural areas versus highly forested landscapes.”

White nose syndrome is a disease devastating bat populations in mostly eastern states, but it is spreading west. Iowa has detected the fungus that causes the disease on one bat, but has no evidence of negative effects yet. Bats are natural crop pest control agents that, if eliminated, would increase the pressure to use pesticides. Blanchong is taking advantage of the fact that bats echo- locate, using sounds that humans can hear only with special equipment, to establish baseline population information.

“If we don’t have a baseline and bad things start to happen and bats start disappearing, we won’t know it. And we won’t know where to prioritize our surveillance efforts to try to help them out,” she says.

Blanchong’s NREM colleague John Tyndall has broad interests in natural resource economics, policy and sociology within forestry and agriculture. In addition to studying the viability of using woody biomass for electricity generation, Tyndall is working with a team of scientists on a project that integrates strips of prairie grasses within row crops to reduce the transport of sediment, nitrogen and phosphorus into nearby streams.

“My role as an economist is looking at the pragmatic side: how much does it cost to implement, manage and what are opportunity costs?” says Tyndall. “So far, on the biophysical side, the results are really incredible. For example, we’ve seen more than 90 percent reduction in sedimentation—the movement of eroded materials off of those basins. From an economic stand- point, the bottom line is this is a relatively inexpensive system to use and comparable to other best management practices.”

Another area of interest to wildlife managers and agricultural landowners are impacts on wildlife habitat on farms that reap Iowa’s alternative cash crop—wind. As a NREM department graduate student, Molly Gillespie recently completed a study of how certain common Iowa bird species use or avoid wind farms as habitat. The study showed evidence of attraction to the altered habitat by some species, avoidance by others and no real avoidance or attraction behavior in most. Killdeer was one of the species found to be attracted to wind farms. The Killdeer is a sandpiper that needs gravel and sand for nesting.

“They were found nesting on the gravel pads under the turbines and on the access roads,” says Stephen Dinsmore, NREM associate professor, who oversaw Gillespie’s study. “Access roads and gravel pads that surround the turbine are created in abundance when creating a wind farm. But the access roads, unlike the surrounding county roads, are not heavily traveled. Killdeer sometimes try to nest on gravel county roads, but the results are often devastating to the nests and the birds.”

Sue Blodgett, NREM department chair, carries a vision for future contributions to natural resource management concerns and challenges in Iowa.

“Iowa’s leadership position as an agricultural state brings with it increased public scrutiny of the impacts of agricultural practices on its natural resources,” Blodgett says. “Our research answers the tough questions and provides natural resource management tools for land- owners and policy makers. We will tackle future challenges, such as climate change—to assess the impacts and offer new and innovative management practices in response.”


By Lynn Laws

Mike Knipper, a farmer in Dubuque County, discusses survey questions with Iowa State Extension Specialist Chad Ingels. The survey was developed by J. Gordon Arbuckle Jr., and colleagues, to gather data about agricultural practices that could make row-crop agriculture more resilient to the impacts of climate change.

Mike Knipper, a farmer in Dubuque County, discusses survey questions with Iowa State Extension Specialist Chad Ingels. The survey was developed by J. Gordon Arbuckle Jr., and colleagues, to gather data about agricultural practices that could make row-crop agriculture more resilient to the impacts of climate change.

In the early 1940s the nation was embroiled in a World War and recovering from the Great Depres­sion and a prolonged, devastating drought. Several years before, a new innovation hit the market shown in field trials to increase corn yields by 20 percent or more and to resist drought. It was hybrid corn, developed commercially by Iowa State alum Henry A. Wallace (’10 animal science, MS ’20).

Adoption of this new technology, while slow at first, was complete throughout Iowa by 1942, within approximately 13 years of its commercial release. This rapid adoption of an agricultural technology captured the attention of Iowa State Sociology Professor Bryce Ryan and administrators of the Iowa Agricultural Experiment Station.

In 1942, the Experiment Station funded a study by Ryan in order to better understand diffusion of innovation to aid adoption of future farm innovations.

Adoption and Diffusion

For the study, Ryan created a rural survey and charged his research assistant, Neal C. Gross, with the task of interviewing 300 farmers in the Iowa communities of Scranton and Grand Junction regarding their adoption of hybrid corn.

Ryan’s interview methodology and his published results became a model for studying and understanding what influences an individual’s decision to adopt a new technology and how adoption spreads among a population. The framework that emerged from his study emphasized “knowledge bringers,” self-experimentation, opinion leaders and interpersonal communications as influences to adoption and diffusion.

Since Ryan’s study, thousands of similar diffusion studies and papers have been published, each reinforcing and building on his seminal theories. Everett Rogers, who participated in rural soci­ology graduate studies under Iowa State Professor George Beal, is known for popularizing Ryan’s theories with his book, “Diffusion of Innovations,” which was published in 1962 and continues to influence sociological research.

Factoring in outside factors

Today, J. Gordon Arbuckle Jr. and his colleagues in Iowa State’s sociology department research conservation practice adoption, “much of which is rooted strongly in the adoption diffusion tradition,” says Arbuckle.

Arbuckle is an associate professor of rural sociology and is the co-director of the Iowa Farm and Rural Life Poll, an annual survey of Iowa farmers, popularly known as “The Farm Poll.”

“A difference today is we are trying to expand our research to account for the influence of institutions, such as farm policy, markets, and other actors and forces that may serve as facilitators or barriers to the adoption of a technology.

Another difference is researchers now examine the environmental and social consequences of the adoption of agricultural innovations—there’s a concern for long-term consequences and benefits, in addition to the short-term,” he says. “The Farm Poll is a valuable tool for helping stakeholders gain insight into farmer perspectives on agricultural issues,” says Arbuckle. “Every year I work with agricultural scientists and agency staff to develop questions for the survey.”

In 2013, for example, Arbuckle worked with agronomy and entomology faculty to develop questions about herbicide resistant weeds and Bt-resistant corn rootworm.

“These are pressing problems in the state,” Arbuckle says, “The information we gather on farmer knowledge, concerns, and current behaviors can help to guide extension and outreach programming on such issues.”

Searching for the missing pieces

Arbuckle recently looked into the adoption of Iowa’s Clean Water State  Revolving Fund—low interest loans available to help farmers fund conservation practices to reduce runoff. In 2007, state program administrators, concerned the program was underutilized, asked Arbuckle and colleagues to help them find out why.

The study included focus groups with field staff responsible for implementing the loan programs. Findings showed loan recipients were highly satisfied with the loans, but many field staff had not learned enough about the programs to adequately promote them. The research helped state administrators remove adoption barriers for field staff and farmers. As a result, Iowa farmers have obtained millions of dollars for needed conservation efforts.

Arbuckle says his ability to develop adoption-diffusion-related questions for the Farm Poll is enhanced by collaborations with key personnel at the Iowa Departments of Agriculture and Natural Resources, Iowa Soybean Association, Iowa Corn Growers Association, Farm Bureau, Iowa Legislature and mass media.

“My work is always a piece of a larger puzzle,” says Arbuckle. “I never have all the answers, but I like to think it helps people who make decisions to make better decisions that serve the needs of agricultural communities.”


By Barbara McBreen

Celize Christy, a junior in animal science, helped students in the George Washington Carver Internship program feel at home while at Iowa State University including at this research poster presentation.

Celize Christy, a junior in animal science, helped students in the George Washington Carver Internship program feel at home while at Iowa State University including at this research poster presentation.







This summer Celize Christy helped students from across the United States follow in the footsteps of George Washington Carver as they explored agricultural science in research labs at Iowa State University.

For eight weeks Christy, a native of Dallas, worked with Theressa Cooper, College of Agriculture and Life Sciences assistant dean for diversity, to coordinate the program.

“I was asked to assist with the programand it fit with what I wanted to do,” Christy says. “It was fun to watch these young adults learn together and connect as friends.”

Christy says she was looking for a professional position for the summer and Dean Wendy Wintersteen helped connect Christy with Cooper.

“She is so personable and offered valuable guidance,” Christy says of Cooper. “She shared her experiences and helped me move ahead and grow.”

As the coordinator for the George Washington Carver Internship Program, Christy, a junior in animal science, helped manage 13 high school and 22 college students. The program, which is sponsored by the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, introduces students to various areas of research. Seven of the students are part of the Science Bound program at Iowa State that recently received a grant from DuPont Pioneer. Cooper says Christy was a valuable asset this summer.

“She was engaging, pleasant and humorous, which helped the interns feel like they were part of the Iowa State community,” Cooper says.

Careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) will increase 17 percent through 2018 according to the U.S. Department of Commerce. Cooper says the internship program bridges the gap between access and opportunity for multicultural populations.

The 2013 summer class was the second largest class of interns since the program started in 1997. The students were mainly from Iowa, but also included students from Puerto Rico, Texas, Illinois and Alabama. Since the start of the program faculty have mentored more than 300 interns.

From getting nightly updates about their daily experiences to hosting students at a barbecue, Christy says coordinating the program was an eye-opening experience.

“Some of the students were in programs they hadn’t thought about exploring and it opened their eyes,” Christy says. “Three students had just graduated and decided to go to Iowa State to pursue their master’s degree because of this experience.”

For Ellen Tisdale the internship provided more than a summer experience. Tisdale, who is now a graduate student with a research assistantship in genetics, says she was introduced to a caring community that encouraged her to pursue a graduate degree.

“When I got to Iowa State, I met some extremely wonderful and helpful people,” the interns in any way possible and often went out of her way to make sure we were ok.”

While she was introducing interns to campus, Christy says she also was learning more about the college.

“I met several professors and mentors and I learned from them about how they successfully pursued their careers,” Christy says.

Next summer Christy plans to study abroad and has applied for the college’s Service Learning Program in Uganda. She has been accepted into the Agricultural and Life Sciences student ambassador program. She hopes to work in international rural development after she graduates.


Meet the 2013 George Washington Carver Interns in this video


Although the exact year and date of George Washington Carver’s birth is unknown, most historians believe he was most likely born in 1864. That’s 150 years worth celebrating.

In 2014, the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences will honor Carver for his many scientific discoveries, achievements and his contributions to the social justice and civil rights movements. “Celebrating the Life and Legacy of George Washington Carver” events during the year will include a lecture series, seminars, student research opportunities, food tastings, displays and artistic performances.

Carver was the first African American to enroll at Iowa State in 1891. He received his bachelor’s degree in 1894, his master’s in 1896 and then became the first African American faculty member at Iowa State. As one of our most distinguished alumni, Carver went on to become a brilliant scientist and educator at the Tuskegee Institute, helping farmers with ideas he worked on when he was a student and faculty member at Iowa State. His research changed how we look at crops. His life and teaching continue to inspire millions.


By Susan Thompson

Jianming Yu (left), Pioneer Distinguished Chair in Maize Breeding, and Asheesh “Danny” Singh Monsanto Chair in Soybean Breeding, joined the faculty at Iowa State University in 2013. Together with Iowa Corn Promotion Board Endowed Chair in Genetics Patrick Schnable, they are extending a long tradition of excellence in plant breeding.

Jianming Yu (left), Pioneer Distinguished Chair in Maize Breeding, and Asheesh “Danny” Singh Monsanto Chair in Soybean Breeding, joined the faculty at Iowa State University in 2013. Together with Iowa Corn Promotion Board Endowed Chair in Genetics Patrick Schnable, they are extending a long tradition of excellence in plant breeding.

Agronomy researchers are using the latest in genomic technology to usher in a new era of plant breeding in a department known for making revolutionary breakthroughs for more than 90 years.

Jianming Yu, associate professor and corn breeding specialist, and Asheesh “Danny” Singh, an assistant professor and soybean breeding expert, joined the agronomy department in 2013.

Kendall Lamkey, agronomy department chair, said the addition of Yu and Singh extends a long tradition of excellence in plant breeding.

“Dr. Yu is one of the top quantitative geneticists in the world and we look forward to the contributions he will continue to make to public and private plant breeding programs,” he says. “Dr. Singh is an outstanding plant breeder who will expand our soybean research capabilities, as well as support the preparation of students for successful careers in agriculture.”

DuPont Pioneer provided the funding for Yu’s position as the Pioneer Distinguished Chair in Maize Breeding.

Yu, who arrived on campus in January, previously worked at Kansas State, studying plant-breeding methods, quantitative genetics and genomics. He earned a bachelor’s degree in agronomy at Northwestern Agricultural University in China, a master’s in plant breeding and genetics from Kansas State, and a doctorate in plant breeding and genetics from the University of Minnesota.

The job description for the position Yu now holds guides his work—“to combine maize breeding with cutting-edge genomic technologies to address significant questions in quantitative genetics, and to develop and improve contemporary breeding methods.”

“To some, this may sound intangible. But to me, it means my team needs to conduct research with great impact, we need to address questions with significance, and our work needs to be original,” he says.

“We saw in 2013 what a cold, rainy spring can do to corn plants, and how much damage a dry, hot summer can have on corn production,” Yu says. “New discoveries will address these types of issues.”

Yu’s teaching duties include courses in plant breeding and genetics. The endowed Pioneer Distinguished Chair in Maize Breeding fund makes it possible for him to host special seminar events, where graduate students can meet with the guest speakers, introduce their own research and ask research and career development questions of experts.

Singh, a Canadian plant breeder, began work in April as the new Monsanto Chair in Soybean Breeding at Iowa State. Previously a research scientist and wheat breeder at the Semiarid Prairie Agricultural Research Centre of Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, Singh says Iowa State is a world-leading university at the forefront of agriculture research and plant breeding.

“Soybean breeding at Iowa State is well known,” he says. “Soybean is an extremely important crop to Iowa’s production systems, and the uniqueness of the plant and its multiple uses drew me to soybean breeding.”

Singh earned a bachelor’s degree in agriculture and animal husbandry from G.B. Pant University of Agriculture and Technology in India, a master’s in plant breeding and genetics from the University of Saskatchewan, and a doctorate in plant breeding and genetics from the University of Guelph.

Iowa State plant breeding research, with long-standing support of Iowa’s soybean growers, already has led to the development of soybeans with improved yield, disease and insect resistance. Singh plans to build on that progress.

“Our team is working on developing superior packages for farmers for increased productivity and better weed and pest management, as well as improved health profile in our cultivars,” he says.

Singh has two goals—farmers and industry making money from his team’s inventions and training students to become the next generation of plant breeders in private and public institutions.

In September, Iowa State University announced an investment from the Iowa Corn Promotion Board to establish the Iowa Corn Promotion Board Endowed Chair in Genetics. Patrick Schnable, a Charles F. Curtiss Distinguished Professor in Agriculture and Life Sciences, a professor of agronomy and director of Iowa State’s Center for Plant Genomics is the first to hold the chair.

“Big picture, Iowa Corn is launching an industry-wide initiative to develop functional genomic information,” says Bob Bowman, a farmer from DeWitt and president of the Iowa Corn Promotion Board. “We are investing additional funds with Dr. Schnable and researchers at other universities to develop a new public-private collaboration to accomplish this goal. This $2 million investment in both the endowment and functional genomics demonstrates our commitment to this important area of research for Iowa farmers.”

Bowman added, “Iowa Corn has a proud history of working with Dr. Pat Schnable, Iowa State and a coalition of other partners to produce the first sequence of the corn genome.”

Schnable, who has been an Iowa State faculty member since 1988, has led wide-ranging research investigations of the corn genome and has developed a significant number of important genomic tools and resources.

Schnable is a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, serves as an associate editor for the PLoS Genetics journal and is chair of the American Society of Plant Biology’s Science Policy Committee.

He is a ChangJiang Scholar Professor at China Agriculture University in Beijing. Schnable received his bachelor’s degree from Cornell University and earned his doctorate in plant breeding and genetics from Iowa State. Prior to joining the ISU faculty, Schnable conducted research at the Max Planck Institute for Plant Breeding in Germany.

Read Schnable’s thoughts on the role of “Big Data” in plant genomicsin here: http://stories.cals.iastate.edu/2013/12/the-future-of-agricultural-research-collaboration-in-a-rising-tide-of-data/.


There was a push in the early part of the 20th Century to grow more corn for livestock feed. The number of corn acres increased, but the open-pollinated varieties grown at the time were low yielding.

A national effort to increase corn yields began in 1922 when state Agriculture Experiment Stations and the U.S. Department of Agriculture joined forces. That’s when Iowa State University’s breeding program began.

A team of USDA and ISU scientists devel­oped the B73 line of hybrid corn in the 1970s and 1980s. It remains the basis for nearly all the seed-parent lines of corn used in the United States and throughout the temperate areas of the world.

Another major product of the breeding program was the free release of more than 30 inbred lines from the USDA-Iowa State breeding program.



21 Jul 2014


I was born and raised in Kansas, but Iowa is my home. I’ve come to know Iowa as a very special place. It’s where I’ve spent much of my life and career. It is a privilege to serve as the dean of agriculture at Iowa’s land grant university, on behalf …


21 Jul 2014


We’re all Iowans. Our time on campus unites us all as Iowans, if only for a few years. When I interview alumni, especially those from out of state, I always ask them what drew them to Iowa State and what made their time in Ames special. Some mention the picturesque, …