Wheat groups voice support for KSU-Monsanto collaboration

The state?s two largest wheat producer organizations are supporting a new public/private collaboration between Kansas State University and Monsanto, which will ultimately lead to new and improved wheat varieties for Kansas farmers.

Grower-leaders of the Kansas Wheat Commission and Kansas Association of Wheat Growers, working together as Kansas Wheat, have offered input and guidance about the principles that guide K-State wheat breeding collaborations with private companies.

?Throughout this process, the Kansas Wheat Commission has maintained that there should be a strong public wheat breeding program at Kansas State Univer?sity. As a result, wheat farmers will continue to have choices when it comes to selecting varieties of wheat to plant on their farms,? said Doug Keesling, chair?man of the Kansas Wheat Commission and farmer near Chase.

Keesling adds that the addition of private investment into public wheat breeding programs will allow public programs like the one at K-State to incorporate unique technologies Monsanto has developed in its corn, soybean and canola breeding units. These could include efficient evaluation of existing variety characteristics, expertise in biotechnology traits and new research and development methods. Ultimately, the result will be wheat varieties with improved agronomic and quality characteristics.

Allan Fritz, wheat breeder at Kansas State University, says working with private industry will give K-State the ability to get improved varieties to market faster.

?For K-State?s wheat breeding program, this will provide breeders with accelerated progress, focusing our selection on plants that matter and targeting for critical traits,? he says.

K-State will continue to work with other public wheat breeding programs as it has in the past, he adds.

The partnership between K-State and Monsanto is not exclusive, meaning K-State can pursue additional collaborations with other private companies. Monsanto also plans to work with other land-grant university wheat breeding programs.

Paul Penner, president of the Kansas Association of Wheat Growers, says the collaboration falls in line with results of a survey conducted in 2009 by the National Association of Wheat Growers, in which U.S. wheat farmers overwhelmingly supported more investment in technology in wheat.

?In Kansas, 76 percent of the respondents said they wanted more investment in wheat research and, eventually, access to biotechnology,? said Penner, who farms near Hillsboro.

Penner and Keesling add that protecting wheat farmers? investment in the K-State wheat breeding program through the wheat checkoff has been vital.

A document called ?The Principles of Collaboration,? available on the KAWG Web site, gives state wheat commissions, wheat breeders and land grant universities with public wheat breeding programs guidelines to follow when developing collaborations and agreements with private industry.

These principles were adopted by the National Wheat Improvement Committee, The National Association of Wheat Growers, U.S. Wheat Associates and several state wheat grower organizations earlier in 2010.

?Kansas Wheat

Growers Association

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