Endowments to benefit Idaho ag research

by Staff
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BOISE, IDAHO — The Idaho Wheat Commission has unveiled plans to create two faculty research endowments with $2 million to the University of Idaho’s College of Agricultural and Life Sciences. The endowments will help support Idaho’s 4,500 wheat growers and their $766 million-per-year harvest.

In addition to the Commission’s donation, Limagrain Cereal Seeds has agreed to collaborate with the University of Idaho on breeding new wheat varieties for Idaho and the Pacific Northwest. Limagrain Cereal Seeds is a joint venture between France-based Limagrain Group, the largest cereal seed company in Europe, and Arcadia Biosciences, a biotechnology company based in Davis, Calif.

Both Limagrain and the university will contribute germplasm, technology and expertise to more rapidly develop varieties with improved productivity and tolerance to diseases and stress. To support this effort, Limagrain also is funding a significant endowment for cropping systems research and graduate training at the university.

“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,” said M. Duane Nellis, president of the University of Idaho. “We deeply appreciate the confidence that both the Idaho Wheat Commission and Limagrain Cereal Seeds have placed in our university.”

Limagrain Cereal Seeds and the university will share grain germplasm, which will “greatly increase varietal options for Idaho and Pacific Northwest wheat growers,” said Dean John Hammel of the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences.

“This public-private partnership is a win for all of us and especially for Idaho and the Pacific Northwest wheat industry,” Mr. Hammel said. “Today’s economic realities make it increasingly important for industries benefiting from our research to increase their support. The endowments our partners are establishing today are ensuring the future as they will provide ongoing and perpetual research funding.”
Gordon Gallup, chairman of the Idaho Wheat Commission, said partnerships with private breeders like Limagrain Cereal Seeds will provide a significant boost to public programs through new technology and new germplasm.

“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,” Mr. Gallup said. “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.”

Donn Thill, director of the university’s Idaho Agricultural Experiment Station that oversees the institution’s statewide agricultural research, said he believes that, “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.”

Jim Peterson, vice-president for research at Limagrain Cereal Seeds, called the collaboration “an exciting opportunity” to build on the strengths of the University of Idaho and Limagrain’s 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,” Mr. Peterson said.

For 2012, the Idaho Wheat Commission endowments will be used to fund a wheat breeding and a wheat agronomist professorship, each located at the university’s Aberdeen Research and Extension Center.

As part of its commitment to the Idaho grain industry, the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences is reallocating resources and faculty positions to strengthen statewide cereal research and extension.
The university’s College of Agricultural and Life Sciences operates research and extension facilities throughout Idaho to serve the state’s people and agriculture as part of its mission as a land-grant institution.

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