University of Idaho Field Day Focuses on Wheat Partnerships, Introduces New Variety

Wednesday, July 9 2014

MOSCOW, Idaho – July 9, 2014 – An agricultural field day sponsored by the University of Idaho and Limagrain Cereal Seeds July 8 near Genesee focused on highlighting collaborative UI-LCS research and breeding efforts to help wheat growers in Idaho and beyond.

The field day drew leading wheat researchers and top officials from the university, its College of Agricultural and Life Sciences and Limagrain Cereal Seeds, a U.S. affiliate of one of the world’s top seed companies.

The field day offered updates on wheat variety trials by Kurt Schroeder, UI cropping systems agronomist at Moscow; cereals work in Nez Perce County by Doug Finkelnburg, UI regional agronomist at Lewiston; wheat breeding and variety development by Jianli Chen, UI wheat breeder at Aberdeen; and the UI-LCS joint wheat variety development program by Jean-Bruno Beaufumé, LCS wheat breeder at Walla Walla, Washington.

“I do have a background in research and a background in genetics, and it is fun being at the field day today,” new University of Idaho President Chuck Staben told the audience as the event concluded.

Noting that he recently passed his first 100 days in the job, Staben said he’s been listening to many of the university’s stakeholders.

“Now is also the time to start acting, and we’ve started to do that. Of course one of the areas of interest to us is ensuring that we have productive private-public partnerships. I think Limagrain is a great example of something that benefits farmers, the university and the company.”

In addition to offering the opportunity to view extensive wheat variety trials, the field day introduced a first in Pacific Northwest wheat breeding – a new variety released jointly by the University of Idaho and Washington State University.

The announcement of the new variety, a soft white winter wheat named UI-WSU Huffman, draws together many of the components of agricultural science, said Donn Thill, Idaho Agricultural Experiment Station director.

“UI-WSU Huffman is the end product of all types of research from plant breeding and genetics to agronomy, the testing that tells us how a variety fits within certain areas of the state and the region,” Thill said. “The variety release brings together many different disciplines of plant science.”

"We are pleased to jointly announce the release of Huffman with the University of Idaho. This is a tangible outcome of our many joint efforts that provide opportunities for growers in the Pacific Northwest to improve crop production and profitability," said Jim Moyer, associate dean of research in the WSU College of Agricultural, Human and Natural Resource Sciences.

The field day itself marked the first major event sponsored by the UI College of Agricultural and Life Sciences at the Kambitsch Farm, one of two off-campus units of the Palouse Research, Extension and Education Center. One of a dozen research and extension locations with ties to the college statewide, the Palouse Center is based on the Moscow campus and is the most varied in its mission.

The Kambitsch Farm near Genesee was established as a research location in 1993. In 2009, the college began a series of major investments to upgrade facilities including shops and housing for a year-around caretaker.

The participation by Limagrain Cereal Seeds at the field day also underlines the power of scientific collaborations with WSU and the company, Thill said.

The number of wheat varieties and breeding lines – still-experimental crosses between different types of
wheat – is larger than it has ever been because of the UI agreement with Limagrain Cereal Seeds. The
regional collaboration between UI, WSU and Oregon State University offers the ability to test wheat varieties in many different locations.

The recent decision by the Idaho Wheat Commission to contribute $640,000 over the next three years to fund a molecular geneticist focused on wheat variety development at UI promises to dramatically speed development, too, Thill said.

The collaboration by universities, company and commission will expand the options available to wheat growers, and ultimately to consumers in the form of food that offers more benefits and lower costs, Thill said.

UI-WSU Huffman was named in honor of UI College of Agricultural and Life Sciences’ alumnus Bradley Huffman, who suddenly and tragically died last year at age 22. Bradley grew up near Cavendish on a family farm operated by his parents, Doug and Julie Huffman. He worked in the university wheat breeding program throughout his undergraduate training. During this time his contribution to the breeding program was significant, said UI plant breeder Jack Brown.

This new variety offers “high yields under dryland conditions, with excellent quality and good resistance to two important wheat diseases, Cephalosporium stripe and yellow stripe rust,” said Brown, who oversaw the variety’s later development and release.

Doug Huffman spoke during a brief program concluding the field day. His son enjoyed photography and his photos showed what he was interested in. “His last day on earth was spent right here at Kambitsch Farm. He took several photos out here of canola fields and different things.”

Three days before, Brad Huffman had attended a field day at Pendleton, Ore. “One of his many photos from there was of this wheat variety,” his father said.

UI-WSU Huffman is a joint release because it resulted from a cross between Bruneau, a cultivar developed by former UI wheat breeder Bob Zemetra, and a wheat breeding line developed at WSU.

The new variety will be licensed by and marketed exclusively by Limagrain Cereal Seeds. All of the seed royalties that would normally be allocated to the cultivar breeder and the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences will go to the Bradley Huffman Scholarship for Plant Breeding and Plant Sciences to commemorate Bradley Huffman’s life.