Greenhouse lights glow in the dusk sky at the Wisconsin Crop Innovation Center (WCIC) at the University of Wisconsin-Madison on Jan. 23, 2017. The agricultural research facility is location in Middleton, Wis., just west of Madison. (Photo by Jeff Miller/UW-Madison)

The end of the year is a great time to look back and reflect on the accomplishments of the CALS community. Here are some of the stories that made 2017 a memorable year for the college:

The Wisconsin Crop Innovation Center to serve as an incubator for agricultural improvement

In January, CALS celebrated the dedication of the Wisconsin Crop Innovation Center, a 100,000-square-foot plant biotechnology facility donated to UW–Madison by Monsanto. Here are some photos from the event. The facility is being used by researchers in the plant sciences from many corners of the UW–Madison campus – and from around the state and nation – to help develop and improve commercially important plant stocks and methodologies.

New program makes vegetables, produce available for free on campus

June marked the grand opening of the UW Campus Food Shed, a unique project started by UW–Madison senior Hannah DePorter who is majoring in conservation biology and environmental studies, with encouragement and support from horticulture professor Irwin Goldman. The program gives students and faculty access to free vegetables and produce, stocked by UW agriculture researchers and local farms with excess crops.

CDC awards $10 million for insect borne disease center

In January, the Upper Midwestern Center of Excellence in Vector Borne Diseases, co-led by CALS entomology professor Susan Paskewitz, was established through a $10 million grant from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The goal of the center is to help stem the spread of disease carried by ticks and mosquitoes.

UW’s new dairy youth specialist aims to serve kids from both farm and nonfarm backgrounds

According to Kalyanna Williams, opportunities in agriculture shouldn’t be dictated by where you come from. Hired as an extension youth specialist in the UW–Madison dairy science department, Williams is tasked with expanding the core constituency of both the dairy science department and the university’s Farm and Industry Short Course (FISC) beyond their usual audiences. “We need people to work in our industry to keep it going and keep it growing,” Williams says.

UW wins $7 million grant to wean crops from nitrogen fertilizers

Researchers from UW–Madison and the University of Florida will use a $7 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy to study how some plants partner with bacteria to create usable nitrogen and to transfer this ability to the bioenergy crop poplar. The project is being led by UW–Madison professor of bacteriology Jean-Michel Ané.

From mice, clues to microbiome’s influence on metabolic disease

A study published in February showed that microorganisms in the gut work in tandem with the genes of the host organism to regulate insulin secretion, a key variable in the onset of the metabolic disease diabetes. Led by UW–Madison researchers Alan Attie and Federico Rey, the new report describes experiments in mice showing how genetic variation of the host animal shapes the microbiome. Understanding this relationship may also be a pathway to pinpointing the genes responsible for conditions like diabetes.

UW entrepreneurial pipeline lands Lactic Solutions in biofuels marketplace

Over the last seven years, food science professor Jim Steele developed and moved his company Lactic Solutions LLC into the marketplace. In 2017, the company was acquired by Lallemand Biofuels & Distilled Spirits – a move that Steele said was made possible by the network of entrepreneurial experts at UW–Madison. Read more about the innovative environment being fostered at UW–Madison.

“Packers” yeast, identified by a UW–Madison undergrad, uncovers a decades-old mistake in the yeast family tree

A springtime walk in Green Bay led Max Haase to a chance encounter with a previously unknown strain of yeast. Named Yamadazyma laniorum in honor of the meat packing industry in Green Bay, the yeast exposed some misidentifications in the yeast family tree and led to a re-appraisal of the effectiveness of other yeasts as biofuel producers. Read more about this breakthrough discovery at UW–Madison.

Lancaster Ag Station celebrates half-century study of crop rotation

Plenty has changed since the Lancaster Agricultural Research Station embarked on a study of crop rotation in 1963, but the goal is still to bridge the divide between cutting-edge research at the UW–Madison College of Agricultural and Life Sciences and the practical realities of survival and prosperity on the farm.

New model reveals possibility of pumping antibiotics into bacteria

A 2017 discovery in the UW–Madison Department of Biochemistry could rewrite almost 50 years of thinking. Professor Katherine Henzler-Wildman and collaborators found that a cellular pump known to move drugs like antibiotics out of E. coli bacteria has the potential to bring them in as well. This opens up new possibilities in the fight against pathogenic bacteria. Read more about this exciting finding.

Snapshot Wisconsin project engages state residents in citizen science

“It’s like having 350 people out there in the woods day and night recording everything they see.” That’s how Jennifer Stenglein describes the scope and efficacy of the Snapshot Wisconsin project, which encourages Wisconsinites to send their trail camera photos to a central database in the hopes of better understanding how wildlife in Wisconsin live and move. Two UW–Madison Forest and Wildlife Ecology professors secured funding to install the cameras and are involved in the project. The story graced the cover of the summer 2017 issue of Grow magazine.

Safer Native foods

You know the saying: You are what you eat. But for Native Alaskans, their protein-rich diet of caribou, seal and whale may also be contaminated with a poisonous toxin. CALS bacteriology professor Eric Johnson traveled to the 49th state to inspect a Native processing facility where seal oil – a staple of Alaskan Natives’ diets – is produced. Read more about Johnson’s fight against food-borne botulism in Grow magazine.

Unintended consequences: Democratic Republic of the Congo

For Dominic Parker, a professor of agricultural and applied economics, a research foray into mining practices in Africa dug up some unexpected findings. Parker theorized that the Dodd-Frank act, passed in 2010, might have ripple effects in far-flung places. Read more in Grow magazine about the impacts of this U.S. legislation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.