Outstanding in Our Field
Global Collaboration Through Research Strengthens Wheat and Grain Industries
Written by Bill Loftus
A $2 million plan to create two faculty research endowments from The Idaho Wheat Commission and innovative support from Limagrain Cereal Seeds will boost the University of Idaho College of Agricultural and Life Sciences efforts to serve Idaho wheat growers.
Announced during a news conference in Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter’s office with a broad range of agricultural industry representatives, University of Idaho President M. Duane Nellis says the support will benefit Idaho overall.
“These partnerships clearly demonstrate the power of collaboration and the value that a land-grant institution like the University of Idaho can bring to our state’s economy,” President Nellis says. “We deeply appreciate the confidence that both the Idaho Wheat Commission and Limagrain Cereal Seeds have placed in our university.”
“This public-private partnership is a win for all of us and especially for Idaho and the Pacific Northwest wheat industry,” says John Hammel, College of Agricultural and Life Sciences dean.
“Today’s economic realities make it increasingly important for industries benefiting from our research to increase their support,” Hammel says. “The endowments our partners are establishing today are ensuring the future as they will provide ongoing and perpetual research funding. We applaud both the Idaho Wheat Commission and Limagrain Cereal Seeds for stepping up as willing partners.”
The new funding will help fill essential wheat-related positions at Aberdeen, Moscow and Lewiston. Limagrain Cereal Seeds’ support will also provide funding for graduate students. The College of Agricultural and Life Sciences will do its share by reallocating resources and faculty positions to strengthen statewide cereal research and extension efforts.
Limagrain Cereal Seeds and the university will share grain germplasm, which will “greatly increase varietal options for Idaho and Pacific Northwest wheat growers,” Hammel says.
Developing new wheat varieties is not easy. It takes a dozen years to develop and test best new grain varieties.
“Future yield increases in wheat will be driven by research, said Gordon Gallup of Ririe, chairman of the Idaho Wheat Commission, which represents Idaho’s wheat growers.
“Private breeders like Limagrain Cereal Seeds bringing new technology and new germplasm into the mix is going to give our public programs a significant boost. New technology will lead to greater yields and better profitability for wheat growers in Idaho and the Pacific Northwest,” Gallup says.
“Wheat growers of Idaho are very aware of how important research is to our bottom line,” Gallup says. “If wheat is to remain competitive in our state and region, growers of Idaho must look to public/private partnerships, as well as requiring increased efficiencies in our public research programs.”
“These past few years we have seen severe cuts to our state universities’ budgets. Although cuts were necessary to balance budgets, those reductions have caused an erosion of our ability to fund research that is necessary to keep agriculture healthy,” Gallup adds.
“Idaho’s wheat growers are hopeful that the State of Idaho will continue to invest in agriculture,” Gallup says. “We encourage other agricultural related industries to join in this effort to keep our land grant universities’ research programs healthy and productive.”
Donn Thill directs the college’s Idaho Agricultural Experiment Station that oversees agricultural research statewide. “By strategically combining our wheat germplasm with Limagrain Cereal Seeds’, new wheat varieties will be created for our growers that yield more wheat per acre, that are easier on the environment, more disease resistant, and more nutritious than what we could do working alone,” Thill says.
Jim Peterson, Limagrain Cereal Seeds vice president for research, sees this as “an exciting opportunity to build on the complementary strengths of the University of Idaho and LCS wheat programs.
“The university’s cropping systems research will help growers to better manage and capture value from new varieties that come out of the collaborative breeding effort,” Peterson says. The collaboration also brings a new international dimension to wheat research in Idaho and the Northwest. Limagrain Cereal Seeds is a new joint venture between the France-based Limagrain Group, the largest cereal seed company in Europe, and Arcadia Biosciences, a biotechnology company based in Davis, Calif.