map of all AES research stations in Colorado

Agricultural Experiment Station Initiatives

Colorado Agricultural Experiment Station 

As ecosystems across the world change in complex and unpredictable ways, long-term research conducted by the Colorado Agricultural Experiment Station and Colorado State University scientists is essential to understanding how key agricultural components interact at the system level.  

By prioritizing and implementing research in strategic areas with opportunities to build on existing strengths, CAES is uniquely positioned to aid growers, producers, food entrepreneurs, policy makers and other stakeholders. 

Colorado’s Agricultural Observatory 

Utilizing a network of centers across Colorado, CAES’s 11 agroecosystem research sites improve understanding of agriculture and facilitate the optimization of management goals. Research centers – 

  • Enable greater integration of biophysical and social sciences to provide solutions with acceptable economic and social costs 
  • Improve our knowledge of geographic scalability to ensure that solutions developed at one scale are also effective at larger scales 
  • Allow processes that operate at larger scales to contribute to solutions at the field and farm scale 

Long-term research can yield critical insights for anticipating the environmental effects of shifting agricultural practices, improving the effectiveness of conservation programs and identifying the broader societal benefits of modern agriculture. 

Animal Nutrition and Physiology

CSU’s Animal Nutrition and Physiology Program provides quality research and education by integrating resources, expertise, and outreach programs across departments, colleges and universities. Through the program, undergraduate students engaged in animal science research, animal husbandry, and outreach programs apply principles learned in Animal Science courses to solve relevant animal production challenges. Researchers are investigating biomarkers related to identifying beef cattle with liver abscesses, the impact of Bovine Viral Diarrhea on beef cattle immunity and production efficiency, parameters that influence nutrient absorption in beef cattle, and management strategies to improve animal welfare.

Terry Engle in cattle pen

The Program

  • Improves nutrient utilization in animal production systems
  • Enhances animal health and well-being; optimize production efficiency
  • Improves product quality and nutrient composition
  • Integrates grazing management and nutrient supplementation with forage availability and quality
  • Explores the dynamics of how feedstuffs impact animal metabolism and performance
two people in corn field

Food Systems Institute

The Food Systems Institute is a partnership between CSU’s College of Agricultural Sciences and College of Liberal Arts, working to building rural-urban linkages – rather than looking at divides — through Colorado-based food systems, including data and modeling efforts, regional partnerships and food policies.

FSI is the administrative home for Gov. Jared Polis’ 22-member Colorado Food Systems Advisory Council, which is charged with advancing recommendations to strengthen the economic, environmental, cultural and social foundations of the state’s local and regional food systems. By linking council activities with CSU research initiatives, student efforts and engagement activities, the partnership embodies the institute’s vision of multi-stakeholder collaboration.

industrial kitchen

Food Innovation Center – Spur

At CSU Spur’s Terra Building, the Food Innovation Center provides opportunities for consumers to become more familiar with food processing techniques and the complexities tied to product design and development. In collaboration with CSU’s Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition, College of Agricultural Sciences faculty and research staff partner with dairy, meat and produce industry leaders and commodity associations to improve the visibility and reach of Colorado State University’s expertise in food production and provide access for industry partners across the country.

Advancing the Science of Regenerative Agricultural Systems

Management Intensive Grazing at ARDEC

Management-intensive Grazing on irrigated, perennial pastures has steadily increased in the western U.S. under increased pressure to reduce public lands grazing, overall declining land available for pasture, and decreasing commodity prices. Using MiG over a two-year period, CSU researchers evaluated changes in soil health under a full-scale, pivot-irrigated perennial pasture system grazed with 230 animal units. Results showed that due to increases in microbial and enzymatic activities, biological soil properties were improved, even as Soil Organic Matter remained unchanged. If managed correctly, irrigated, MiG systems have the potential to support grazing while promoting soil health for environmental and economic sustainability.

cows grazing in irrigated field

ARDEC’s MiG Pivot

  • Established in 2016
  • 210 acres divided into three concentric permanent fences
  • Internal ‘spokes’ are movable fences that divide paddocks into grazing units
  • Movement is every 1-4 days depending upon weather, irrigation system and grass growth
  • Multiple research objectives, including soil health, greenhouse gas emissions and water use
hand holding soil

Soil Health 

In partnership with the Colorado Department of Agriculture and the larger agricultural community

The Colorado Integrated Rocky Mountain-region Innovation Center for Healthy Soils, IN-RICHES spearheads the Colorado Collaborative for Healthy Soils, launched the Colorado STAR Program, Saving Tomorrow’s Agricultural Resources, and established an interdisciplinary research program.

At AES research centers, IN-RICHES —

  • Has established an initial network of eight research fields to investigate soil health, on-farm economics, and the soil-water nexus.
  • Tracks soil health changes in agroecosystems converted from row crops to forage systems to sustain cattle.
  • Worked with a local startup company to test a microbial biostimulant product on soil and crop health to improve aspects of soil health that led to earlier fruit production
  • Evaluates how compost additions to pastures affect productivity, soil health and carbon sequestration in Western CO
Colorado River in Palisade, co

Evaluating Water Conservation in the Upper Colorado River Region

In partnership with the Desert Research Institute and Utah State University, Colorado State University has conducted three years of research estimating consumptive water use over an area spanning 1,100 acres of high-altitude irrigated grass pastures that represent the dominant irrigated land uses in western Colorado. Through this project, researchers were able to more effectively capture the spatial variability of water conservation rates of these land uses by utilizing remote-sensing technology at a scale that has not previously been conducted under realistic conditions.

This work is crucial to understanding estimated expected water conservation amounts that would stem from voluntary irrigation curtailment programs to address the significant water shortages on the Colorado River and provides better documentation of grass pasture recovery rates on parcels where these programs occur.

Accelerating Agriculture’s Climate Resiliency

Colorado Climate Center

The Colorado Climate Center, based in CSU’s Department of Atmospheric Science, provides tools and expertise that inform water and agricultural management decisions to increase preparedness and resilience to hazards like drought and high-impact weather.  Two observing networks:

  • Community Collaborative Rain, Hail, and Snow, CoCoRaHS Network — a citizen science initiative that includes over 20,000 volunteer precipitation observers across the country and world
  • Colorado Agricultural Meteorological Network, CoAgMET — 90 weather stations around the state that provide real-time information for agricultural producers, researchers and forecasters

The Center’s drought dashboard provides real-time updates on key drought indicators across the state, and it recently published research that incorporates crop-specific information into drought monitoring. CCC staff provide insight and information on Colorado’s climate through research, data analysis and archiving, webinars, media interviews, and over 30 presentations per year to a broad range of audiences.

Visit the CSU Colorado Climate Center Website to learn more.

AES Supported Agroecosystem Research

AgNext: Sustainable Solutions for Animal Agriculture

AgNext’s Climate-Smart Research Facility at ARDEC is the largest University research facility of its kind in the U.S. and is equipped with the best emissions measurement technology to evaluate greenhouse gasses from cattle in feedlot and grazing settings.


CAES research sites host infrastructure and support research to accelerate the adoption of innovative agrivoltaic systems that combine solar photovoltaic-based renewable energy generation with agricultural production to mitigate climate change’s impacts on agriculture.

Plant Adaptation

By aligning the best plant science with industry priorities, the planned Institute for Plant Adaptation supports profitability for growers, spurs economic development of rural communities, and improves sustainability and health in the rural environment to meet society’s need for more productive, sustainable, and resilient agriculture.

Nurturing Human Wellness and Thriving Communities

food delivery truck being loaded

Food Security

CAES partners with local communities to address food insecurity around the state. At the Western Colorado Research Center, the Community Alliance for Education and Hunger Relief increases the amount of high-quality fruit and vegetables available to foodbanks in Mesa County and across Colorado. Surplus orchard fruit from the Orchard Mesa and Rogers Mesa centers is harvested by volunteers and donated to hunger relief organizations, and vegetables are grown at the Orchard Mesa and Grand Valley Stations for distribution to schools and hunger relief organizations in Western Colorado. This work also supports hands-on service learning for K-12 students and learners of all ages in local agriculture, food systems, nutrition and food insecurity.

Read Article About Food Security at CSU Magazine