Posted: Friday, June 22, 2012 10:38 AM
By MATTHEW WEAVER
The University of Idaho and Limagrain Cereal Seeds will develop new wheat varieties together in an effort to improve yields and disease resistance for Idaho growers
The Idaho State Board of Education has approved an agreement between the university and the global seed company.
According to the university, Limagrain will contribute to research and education endowments for the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences to fund wheat research and two $20,000 graduate-level assistantships annually.
The non-exclusive agreement means UI and Limagrain will develop and market some wheat varieties together under the trade name Varsity Idaho, according to UI. The company and university will also continue to develop varieties independently, collaborate with other parties and market varieties separately.
Jim Peterson, Limagrain vice president of research and former wheat breeder for Oregon State University, said in a UI press release that the company brings a global germplasm base and some modern technologies to the table. It's an opportunity to partner with UI researchers and extension to bring better products to Idaho growers, Peterson stated.
The Idaho Wheat Commission will serve in a formal advisory role.
Commissioner Joe Anderson, based in Potlatch, Idaho, said the commission supports public-private partnerships when appropriate.
For this collaboration, "the whole is going to be greater than the sum of its parts," he said, noting the industry will have access to germplasm from the university and Limagrain. The plan is to develop higher-yielding varieties with more disease resistance.
Anderson said he expects some grousing from critics who feel farmers should not have to pay royalties for varieties they've already paid through checkoff dollars for research and development. But half of the wheat planted in the region is private varieties, he said.
"Times are changing, they have changed," he said. "Whether or not UI and Limagrain entered into a collaborative agreement, it's not going to be the same as it was in the 1960s."
The commission has recommended to the university that there will not be any more public releases, Anderson said.
"There have been so many varieties developed and growers' money has been invested in developing them, but there's no follow-through to promote them, make growers aware of them and get them out there," he said, noting seed companies are more likely to risk taking on a variety and promoting it if they have rights to it.
Anderson said the commission's concern is growers have improved access to whatever varieties or technology resulting from programs they invest in.
"Any wheat grower will look at the variety and see how it's going to work on our farms," he said. "We probably aren't paying much attention to who developed the variety; it's going to be whether it works or not."
The university and Limagrain will hold a field day July 9 at UI's Palouse Research, Extension and Education Center Parker Farm east of Moscow, Idaho. It will include displays of hundreds of plots of Limagrain and UI wheat varieties and breeding lines.
University of Idaho College of Agricultural and Life Sciences: www.uidaho..edu/cals
Idaho Wheat Commission: www.idahowheat.org