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
ManagementMACA 2014: The State Of The Agricultural Industry, And Then Some
October 9, 2014
The trade association’s annual gathering featured speakers from across agriculture and beyond. Read More
StewardshipA Multi-Layered Approach To Water Quality
October 6, 2014
Illinois event highlights research and technology designed to better monitor and improve water quality — and the benefits of cooperative, coordinated effort. Read More
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
Top 100 Articles
Milan Kucerak, president/CEO, West Central
CropLife 100West Central Cooperative And Its New President Are A Match Made In Deviation
June 29, 2015
To appreciate just how unique West Central Cooperative is in the world of ag retail, an observer need only consider Read More
Winter Wheat
CropLife 100South Dakota Co-op Member Owners Vote No On Unification
June 26, 2015
The Boards of Directors for North Central Farmers Elevator (NCFE) and Wheat Growers (WG) have announced that member-owners have voted Read More
CropLife 100The Andersons Acquires South Dakota Plant Nutrient Manufacturer Kay-Flo
May 20, 2015
The Andersons, Inc., ranked No. 22 on the CropLife 100, has purchased Kay Flo Industries of North Sioux City, SD. “This Read More
CropLife 100AgGateway’s Barcoding Initiative Progressing Nicely
May 8, 2015
According to legend (or Wikipedia), the first step towards modern bar codes came back in 1948, when Bernard Silver, a Read More
CropLife 100Pinnacle Agriculture Acquires Minnesota Retailer
April 14, 2015
Pinnacle Agriculture Holdings, LLC, ranked No. 6 on the CropLife 100,  has successfully acquired Liebl Ag, LLC in Ada, MN.  Read More
CropLife 100CHS, Aurora Cooperative Complete Fertilizer Storage, Grain Shuttle Loading Facility
April 13, 2015
CHS Inc., the nation’s leading cooperative and ranked No. 5 on the CropLife 100, and Aurora Cooperative (ranked No. 21) Read More
Latest News
Agworld Apple Watch Farm Management
EquipmentAussie Data Management Software Company Making Its Mark…
July 4, 2015
Western-Australia-based Agworld — having fully launched its data management software system stateside last year after a 2013 soft launch — Read More
Topcon AGI-4 on MF Planter
EquipmentAutosteer: Compatibility, Accuracy Remain Top Of Mind
July 3, 2015
The world of automatic steering solutions in agriculture has evolved rapidly in the last few years. From after-market add-ons that Read More
ManagementUnited Suppliers/Land ‘O Lakes Merger & Crop Update
July 2, 2015
CropLife’s Paul Schrimpf and Eric Sfiligoj talk about the reasons behind the United Suppliers/Land ‘O Lakes merger and USDA’s recent Read More
Industry NewsBioSafe Adds To Sales Force
July 2, 2015
BioSafe Systems has announced the hire of two new members for its service team. David Britt recently joined the team Read More
Chesapeake Bay
ManagementChesapeake Bay Clean-Up Gets Renewed Attention
July 2, 2015
The Chesapeake Bay has been called one of the most biologically productive ecosystems in the world. It’s also one of Read More
Measuring Bulk Tanks
ManagementBulk Pesticide Compliance: Top 10 Areas Of Improvement …
July 1, 2015
  In honor of the 33-year run of David Letterman’s Late Show, the American Agronomic Stewardship Alliance (AASA) is happy Read More
Industry NewsArysta North America Hires Midwest Sales Manager
July 1, 2015
Arysta LifeScience North America recently announced the hiring of Brian Battles as the Senior Technical Sales Manager for the Midwest Read More
Farmer on tablet
Eric SfiligojThe Never-Ending Battle Against Modern Agriculture
July 1, 2015
In the world of comic books, the character of Superman often refers to the fight to save the world as Read More
Retail FacilitiesBuilding Up Ag Retail
July 1, 2015
In the oftentimes unpredictable world we live in, it’s nice to know some things can be reliably countered on to Read More
Retail FacilitiesMaple River Grain And Agronomy Phases In Site Developme…
July 1, 2015
Marcus Construction helped Maple River Grain and Agronomy in Casselton, ND, with the design-build of its dry fertilizer, liquid chemical/seed Read More
Retail FacilitiesA&B Welding Builds A New Liquid Terminal Hub For Br…
July 1, 2015
To build its new hub facility, Briggs Crop Nutrients enlisted the help of A&B Welding. The result, an efficient facility Read More
Edon Farmers Co-op
Retail FacilitiesNew Marcus Facility At Edon Farmers Co-op Provides More…
July 1, 2015
Edon Farmers Co-Op in Edon, OH, needed a new facility to consolidate outdated locations. Marcus Construction was able to design Read More
Retail FacilitiesKinder Morgan Expands Its Storage With A New Dome Barre…
July 1, 2015
Kinder Morgan wanted additional covered storage at its Dakota Bulk Terminal on the Mississippi River in St. Paul, MN. With Read More
Retail FacilitiesHeartland Tank Protects Fertilizer From Extreme Cold At…
July 1, 2015
The Arthur Companies in Harvey, ND, enlisted the help of Heartland Tank Companies to develop a new liquid fertilizer facility Read More
The McGregor Co. fertilizer loadout
Retail FacilitiesThe McGregor Co. Partners With Kahler Automation To Cre…
June 30, 2015
Kahler Automation helped The McGregor Co. expand its Clarkston, WA, operation with unstaffed loadout technology that enables customers to pick Read More
Dry and Liquid Plant
Retail FacilitiesKahler Automation Helps CHS Dakota Ag Cooperative Build…
June 30, 2015
CHS Dakota Ag Cooperative in Mooreton, ND, wanted a liquid/dry blender system that could meet the needs of its customers Read More
Crop InputsLand O’Lakes, United Suppliers To Merge Crop Inpu…
June 29, 2015
Land O’Lakes, Inc. and United Suppliers, Inc. of Ames, IA, today announced their intent to merge their crop inputs businesses. Read More
FungicidesHelena To Distribute Unique Summit Agro Fungicide
June 29, 2015
RANMAN 400 SC fungicide, the only fungicide with a FRAC group 21 designation, is now part of the innovative Summit Read More