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New Idaho Wheat Breeder Lauds Collaboration With LimagrainNew Idaho Wheat Breeder Lauds Collaboration With Limagrain

UI plant breeder assigned extra task.

T.J. Burnham 1

March 28, 2013

3 Min Read

A University of Idaho collaboration with farmer-owned Limagrain Cereal Seeds to produce and market new wheat varieties in the Northwest is clearly a win-win partnership, says UI's newest wheat breeder.

"The arrangement enhances and complements us both," says Jack Brown, who was just assigned to add wheat breeding to his busy canola, rapeseed and mustard development at UI.

Limagrain and UI will share the wealth in varieties they develop on a 50-50 basis, while other cultivars may become either university or company properties, depending on the development expenditure spent by either.

"It is a complicated situation, and even those varieties fully developed by UI may become Limagrain products if they contract to market them," says Brown. "The agreement is a very flexible one."

But it will be many years before the first Limagrain-UI wheat will see commercialization, explains Brown, since the first crosses under the 2012 partnership agreement were just made last year.

There's nothing unique to the industry in the private-public institution collaboration on wheat, he notes, although the agreement marks a first for UI.

Limagrain wheat research vice president Jim Peterson labels the UI agreement "the most integrated we have with any U.S. university."

What Limagrain brings to the table is a wealth of European germ plasm that the international firm has amassed, and UI brings its regional germ plasm resources and 100% years of area expertise that the company that has been in the Northwest for only two-and-a-half years lacks.

 "Limagrain also brings the capability of testing wheat cultivars across the Pacific Northwest," adds Brown, noting that the firms PNW office in Waitsburg, Wash., facilitates a beneficial pan-Northwest market potential for new releases.

On the UI side, "we bring our Extension Service capability that allows testing throughout the state," he adds.


Limagrain, founded in  France in 1942 as a co-op, is the largest seed company in the European Union and the biggest cereal seed producer in the world, deciding to establish a U.S. headquarters in Fort Collins in recent years.

"What the agreement does is greatly broaden our genetic base," says Brown. "Benefits are tremendous."

While new to UI's wheat breeding program, Brown has been on the job at the university for 20 years, gaining a reputation for his development of IdaGold mustard, used by the nation's largest mustard makers.

Based in Moscow, Idaho, he has been involved in oilseed breeding of canola and rapeseed as well, and will continue his oilseed duties.

But he is no novice in grains, having focused on barley in the past.

"We are fortunate to have a successful plant breeder on staff that has the diverse experience working with crops and growers," says John Foltz, College of Agricultural and Life Sciences interim dean.

The need for the move is clear to Brown, who explains that it takes up to a decade to develop a new wheat. "If we have a gap of several years with no northern Idaho breeder, that delays the ability of growers to adapt to changing market demands and capitalize on new discoveries," he says.

Part of what he and UI brings to the Limagrain program, he notes, is the university's extensive end-use studies matching new varieties to those changing market needs.

About the Author(s)

T.J. Burnham 1

Editor, Western Farmer-Stockman

T.J. Burnham has covered western agriculture for 42 years. A University of Michigan journalism program grad, he worked for The Sacramento Bee for 15 years before moving into specialty farm magazine writing. He has been on the Farm Progress staff for 10 years.

"A lot of my uncles back in Michigan were farmers, but my interest was primarily to become a hot shot city desk reporter. Once I was given a job at the Bee on the metro desk, they told me that they’d hired too many new reporters, and half of us had to go. However, they said there was an opening in the newspaper’s ag division, and if I worked there until the probationary period was over, I could be reassigned to general reporting. I took the job, but by the time the probation period was ended, I found I enjoyed covering ag so much that I never asked to go back to the city side.”

T.J. joined Farm Progress as a California Farmer reporter, then became editor of the Western Farmer-Stockman. He has earned a reputation in the West as a strong source of direct seed information, and has affiliated Western Farmer-Stockman as the official magazine of the Pacific Northwest Direct Seed Association.

His wife, Sally, writes for the magazine and helps with bookwork concerning freelance writers from the eight western state arena which the magazine serves.

T.J. likes hiking and fishing, and dabbles in woodworking projects. He also enjoys gardening and photography.

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