Funding research to develop new wheat varieties benefits U I & wheat farmers

MOSCOW, ID - Members of The Idaho Wheat Commission are teaming up with the University of Idaho to help make the state's wheat industry more competitive with the variety of other crops that are grown in the Gem State.

Reporter Rachel Dubrovin explains why investing millions of dollars into wheat genetics research will help the university, and wheat farmers.

When it comes to crops, wheat is huge here on the Palouse. But Idaho Wheat Commission Director of Research Collaboration Cathy Wilson said across the state,wheat has to compete for growers.

"Certainly, we are challenged to keep our acreage," said Wilson. "Probably the current one in Idaho is malt barley."

One of the goals of the commission is to make wheat more valuable, but Wilson said developing dependable strains can be challenging.

"We have to have something that has agronomic characteristics that the growers can manage well, and be profitable with," said Wilson. "They have to have yield. But then we have millers that want to have good flour extraction from a particular variety."

That's where the University of Idaho comes in. On Wednesday, Idaho Wheat Commission Chairman Ned Moon signed an agreement that will renew funding for wheat research at the U of I's College of Agricultural and Life Sciences.

"We are the land grant institution, and agriculture is a big part of our statewide mission," said U of I Plant, Soil and Entomological Sciences Department Head Paul McDaniel.

The Idaho Wheat Commission has invested more than four-million-dollars into research at the U of I over the last four years. The latest agreement will allow the university to hire a molecular geneticist who will research and develop new varieties.

"This person is going to look at ways to bring desirable traits to wheat crops," said McDaniel.

Wilson explained that funding research at the U of I is a way of investing in the future of the state's wheat industry, and its farmers.

"This work will provide radical breakthroughs to deal with drought, nitrogen efficiency, some of the real challenges that we're going to have at the grower level in the next ten to twenty years," said Wilson.

The nation-wide search is on for a qualified geneticist to fill the tenured research and teaching position at the U of I. University leaders hope to fill the new position in November.