University Of Idaho Parma Research Center: A Twofold Treasure

Established in 1925, the Parma Research and Extension Center at the University of Idaho, Parma, ID, came about “from the need for research and extension efforts to sustain and improve the productivity of the crops grown in southwest Idaho.” The 200-acre property houses University of Idaho faculty members whose research and extension programs focus on production, storage and other related problems of vegetables, forages, cereals, hop, mint, fruit and seed crops.

Research at Parma, however, is not limited to the field. According to the center’s website, the facility provides 5,100 square feet of greenhouse space that is utilized year-round, and there are 540 square feet of growth chamber rooms that are used for entomology research projects. Additionally, there are approximately 7,500 square feet of office space and meeting rooms for faculty and support staff, and nearly 5,000 square feet of laboratory space.

Ten faculty members conduct research and extension programs at the center, among these programs are entomology, crop management, soils, horticulture, pomology, nematology and plant pathology. Helping to carry-out these programs are 15 additional full-time support staff including research support scientists, post-doctoral fellows, scientific and technical aides, farm and maintenance crew employees and office staff.

According to facility superintendent and professor of plant science Mike Thornton, Parma is a special facility due to, among other reasons, its unique location in the heart of Idaho’s Treasure Valley region. “This station serves a unique role in that we are the only one in Idaho working on many of the high value crops grown in what is known as the Treasure Valley region of southwestern Idaho and eastern Oregon,” says Thornton. “For example, we conduct research on crops like alfalfa seed, sweet corn seed, hops, mint, onions, potatoes, apples, peaches, sugar beets and table grapes to name a few.”

The Simplot Thickens

What sets Parma apart from other land-grant university research centers is the close relationship with Boise-based J.R. Simplot Co., the 5th ranked U.S. retailer on CropLife® magazine’s CropLife 100. Simplot became involved in the center in 2008 as a cooperative partner after funding difficulties had the facility on the brink of shut down.

“At the time, the Dean was very adamant that the center would close without outside funding, so I believe we would not be in operation today without this agreement with Simplot,” says Thornton.

Terry Tindall, Ph.D. and senior agronomist with Simplot, states that the company’s goal in partnering with the University of Idaho was “to work with third-party, independent researchers and faculty in helping to develop and define some of our new fertilizer materials and better understand products and materials that we would like to have enter the production agriculture market.”

“Nothing replaces research in providing a foundation for agronomic understanding,” adds Tindall. “With the close working relationship that has been developed at Parma, we can confidently be in a better position to make recommendations for Simplot’s valued customers and local growers.”

A main benefit of the relationship for Simplot is gaining access to the physical facilities at Parma. “An added benefit for Simplot is the field tours and agronomic reviews that have taken place,” says Tindall. “For the last three summers we’ve hosted international field days with participants from over 20 different countries. Also, demonstration trials as well as research trials have been the center of attention at Parma. Lectures in a room are good to an extent, but hands-on experience is a tremendous influence for presenting new products or methods of application.”

For the university, the opportunity to work, and for students to learn, hand-in-hand with industry is a huge advantage. “What has changed (after bringing Simplot on) is that we have more direct industry input into our research and extension programs,” says Thornton. “This occurs through the Simplot cooperators, as well as other supporters like the Treasure Valley Agriculture Coalition that provide funding as well as advice on station operations. Another benefit this agreement has brought is expanding the range of groups we work with to conduct research. For example, several companies have brought products to us to get third-party efficacy data due to our relationship with Simplot.”

Improving Fertilizer

Currently, according to Tindall, most of the facility’s resources are being focused on improving nitrogen and phosphorus fertilizer-use efficiency.

“These efforts are extremely important, not only directly to growers and ag retailers who are using these products, but also to the communities in which we work,” says Tindall. “By allowing a greater proportion of these fertilizer products to be accessed and utilized by a particular crop, the less likely they are to be used in excess and loss to the environment.”

Tindall also notes that faculty and researchers are also working on solutions to help address the global food security crisis. “A long-term project of Simplot and the University of Idaho at Parma is addressing concerns related to irrigated corn production. Pushing yield goal parameters with seed populations, starter fertilizers, new genetics and enhanced efficiency fertilizers allows opportunities to address the seriousness of improving food security issues now, before we are faced with calamities in the future.”

After about four years of working in concert, local growers are reportedly quite pleased with the Simplot-University of Idaho partnership. “Growers tell us the research conducted here is very important in keeping them competitive in terms of cost of production and quality as required in a global market place,” says Thornton. “We help them use inputs like water, fertilizer and pesticides more efficiently, as well as adopt new varieties and cultural practices.  We have also been at the forefront locally in identifying and controlling new pest outbreaks.”

Adds Tindall: “Stewardship of our land and input resources continues to be discussed at Parma across regional and national geographies. While we do not have all the answers to these complex issues, the relationship between the University of Idaho and the J.R. Simplot Co. can help provide local answers that may very well be used on a national and global basis in the near future.”

Leave a Reply

Management Stories

StewardshipMichigan Agriculture Leaders On Toledo Water Ban: We Want To Be Part Of The Conversation
August 8, 2014
Leaders of Michigan agricultural organizations said Thursday that the government should not have a “knee-jerk reaction” based on last weekend’s water ban in Toledo due to fertilizer run-off in Lake Erie. Read More
ManagementRussia Bans U.S. And EU Ag Product Imports In Ukraine Sanctions Battle
August 7, 2014
Russian President Vladimir Putin has banned the import of agricultural goods from countries that have imposed sanctions on Russia. Read More
EmployeesAsmark Institute Dedicates New Training Center To Ford West
August 6, 2014
The Asmark Institute plans to recognize the retired industry leader's years of service to the fertilizer industry at the new state-of-the-art facility in Owensboro, KY. Read More
LegislationUSDA: Quick Implementation Of Disaster Assistance Programs A ‘Top Priority’
July 9, 2014
USDA has processed 106,000 payments to farmers in 40 states across the country who suffered livestock and grazing losses between Oct. 2011 and passage of the 2014 Farm Bill. Read More

Trending Articles

Equipment2014 Product Of The Year Voting
September 19, 2014
Many new products were introduced to the ag retail marketplace this year. From this group, CropLife IRON and its consulting partners have selected five finalists for the Product of the Year award. Please cast your vote today to help us determine the winner. Read More
FertilizerFall Fertility 2014: Forecasting Fertilizer Use
September 7, 2014
Great crops this year have tapped the soil, and fall work is definitely called for, but how challenging will that get? Read More
CropLife 100CHS To Build $3 Billion Fertilizer Plant In North Dakota
September 5, 2014
The fertilizer plant in Spiritwood will be the single largest investment in CHS history, as well as the single largest private investment project ever undertaken in North Dakota. Read More
EquipmentNew Holland Acquires Miller-St. Nazianz
September 3, 2014
The assets of Miller acquired as part of the transaction will become part of New Holland Agriculture, a CNH Industrial brand, building on a successful four-year partnership between the two companies. Read More
CropLife 100Pinnacle Acquires East Kansas Chemical
September 2, 2014
Ranked 82nd on the CropLife 100, East Kansas Chemical will operate as part of Pinnacle's Performance Agriculture brand. Read More
MAGIE 2014 ShowStopper
EquipmentJohn Deere Again Wins MAGIE ShowStopper Award
August 25, 2014
For the second consecutive year, John Deere was honored at the Midwest AG Industries Exposition (MAGIE) for its new R4045 sprayer. Read More

Latest News

Syngenta
Crop InputsSyngenta Launches Plant Breeding Academy
October 1, 2014
Syngenta announces the release of its Breeding Academy, a global initiative designed to enable the continued development of scientists at Syngenta and beyond. Read More
FertilizerFertilizer Outlook And Technology Conference Set For No…
September 30, 2014
Conference participants can expect to gain perspective on the outlook for agriculture and major fertilizer materials and inputs from industry experts. Read More
MicronutrientsVerdesian Acquires Micronutrient Supplier
September 30, 2014
Verdesian Life Sciences has acquired QC Corp., a producer and supplier of granular and dry micronutrients and ferrous sulfate products. Read More
Eric SfiligojHearing From Young Ag Voices
September 30, 2014
Potential future leaders in ag retail had the chance to shine at the recent Mid America CropLife Association meeting. Read More
WebinarsUpcoming Webinars
September 30, 2014
Register for one of our upcoming Webinars or access our archive of past Webinars to view recordings of presentations that may be of interest to you. Read More
Crop InputsSyngenta Appoints New Chief Operating Officer
September 29, 2014
Jon Parr will succeed retiring COO John Atkin at the end of the year. Read More
CropLife 100South Dakota Wheat Growers To Add Grain-Agronomy Facili…
September 26, 2014
Planned to be constructed in Kennebec, the facility will be located along the soon-to-be rehabilitated line of heavy-rail service from Chamberlain to Presho. Read More
CropLife 100GROWMARK Announces Vice President Appointments
September 25, 2014
Two individuals have been appointed Vice President positions on the GROWMARK executive team. Read More
FertilizerFertilizer Industry Organizations Join Global Alliance …
September 25, 2014
The Fertilizer Institute, the International Plant Nutrition Institute and the International Fertilizer Industry Association are encouraging the industry to promote the proper use of fertilizer products to minimize their environmental impact. Read More
Precision AgARA Organized Precision Forum Hits Capitol Hill
September 24, 2014
The Coalition for the Advancement of Precision Agriculture (CAPA) hosted its inaugural Precision Ag Forum, Sept. 18, in Washington, D.C. Read More
FertilizerFactors To Consider When Placing Fertilizer With Seed
September 24, 2014
The type of crop, fertilizer source, row spacing and soil environment all affect how much fertilizer can be safely applied with seed. Read More
FertilizerSidedressing Manure Into Corn Has Promising Results
September 24, 2014
Applying manure to growing crops can boost yields, reduce nutrient losses and give livestock producers another window of time to apply manure to farm fields. Read More
FertilizerWhen To Sample Manure For Analysis
September 24, 2014
Because the goal is to collect a sample that represents the manure actually being applied, the best time to sample is during loading or field application. Here's why. Read More
Syngenta
Seed/BiotechSyngenta Faces Second Lawsuit Over Agrisure Viptera Cor…
September 23, 2014
A second company has sued Syngenta AG over sales of genetically modified corn seed not approved by China. Read More
StewardshipCover Crops Field Guide For Farmers Expanded
September 23, 2014
Farmers interested in planting cover crops to improve soil health now have an updated and expanded resource in the second edition of the Midwest Cover Crops Field Guide. Read More
HerbicidesArysta LifeScience Launches Contest For Wheat Growers
September 23, 2014
The Flush after Flush Photo Finish contest encourages farmers across the U.S. to participate through Instagram or Twitter using the hashtag #FlushAfterFlush. Read More
FertilizerCF Industries Confirms Merger Of Equals Discussions Wit…
September 23, 2014
CF Industries Holdings, Inc. has confirmed that it is in preliminary discussions with Yara International regarding a potential merger of equals transaction. Read More
StewardshipProgram To Examine Ag-Related Practices, Policies To Pr…
September 22, 2014
A panel discussion on October 14 will include a significant discussion on key issues and solutions related to all aspects of harmful algal blooms. Read More