Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Global Seed Company, University of Idaho Agree on Novel Wheat Pact

The Idaho State Board of Education approved an innovative agreement between the University of Idaho and Limagrain Cereal Seeds, one of the world’s largest seed companies, that expands graduate education in agriculture and wheat variety development opportunities.

“This agreement is important to meet the needs of Idaho’s wheat growers and our ability to serve agriculture both in Idaho and in the Northwest,” said College of Agricultural and Life Sciences Dean John Hammel.

“We have had detailed discussions for more than a year with the Idaho Wheat Commission, Limagrain Cereal Seeds and others to make sure this agreement works for all parties,” said Donn Thill, Idaho Agricultural Experiment Station director in the college at Moscow.

Limagrain Cereal Seeds will contribute to research and education endowments for the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences to fund wheat-focused research and two $20,000 graduate-level assistantships annually.

The research endowments will help fund field studies by college faculty members focused on better ways to grow wheat on the Palouse surrounding Moscow, Thill noted.

A July 9 field day at the college’s Palouse Research, Extension and Education Center Parker Farm east of Moscow will offer wheat growers and the public a chance to explore the collaboration at the ground level with officials from the university, company and other groups. Hundreds of plots of Limagrain Cereal Seeds wheat varieties and breeding lines and those developed by the college will be on display.

“From the Limagrain Cereal Seeds standpoint, we’re really excited about the opportunity to partner with the University of Idaho and by extension with the Idaho Wheat commission,” said Jim Peterson, vice president for research for Limagrain Cereal Seeds at Fort Collins, Colo.

“We feel we bring some unique things to the table, a global germplasm base, some modern technologies and the opportunity to partner with the researchers and extension at the University of Idaho to really bring better information and better products to the growers of Idaho,” said Peterson.

He previously worked as Oregon State University’s wheat breeder and has strong ties to the University of Idaho, where his uncle Chuck Peterson, an agricultural engineer and biodiesel pioneer served as College of Engineering dean.

The Idaho Wheat Commission will participate in the collaboration in a formal advisory role. Cathy Wilson, the commission’s director of research collaboration, will serve as an ex-officio member of a joint university-company steering committee that will meet four times a year.

“My experience shows that where there is collaboration, there is opportunity,” Wilson said.

On Jan. 6 in Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter’s office, Peterson of Limagrain Cereal Seeds joined an Idaho Wheat Commission announcement of endowments that will total $2 million to support the university’s wheat research.

The agreement was previewed by the State Board of Education during its April meeting in Moscow.

The non-exclusive agreement between the university and Limagrain means the two will develop and market some wheat varieties together under the trade name Varsity Idaho. The company and university will continue to develop varieties independently, collaborate with other parties and market varieties separately.

The strength of the agreement, Thill said, is that it provides the university with a tie to the company’s vast collection of germplasm from throughout Europe and its scientific and marketing expertise.

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