Kansas Wheat members and producers joined Kansas State University officials and representatives of ADM Milling at the K-State Research farm at Hays on Thursday to celebrate an ongoing partnership that is advancing hard white winter wheat breeding at Hays.
Dr. Guorong Zhang said a five-year, $325,000 investment in the program made by ADM has enabled the program to take advantage of advanced technology such as doubled haploid and genetic marker assisted selection. The five-year project is in its second year and Zhang told officials attending the celebration that already it has made big strides.
Nick Weigel, vice president of technical services with ADM Milling in Overland Park said the goal of the partnership with K-State is to advance white wheat lines that have the milling and baking qualities that are in high demand by ADM customers.
Traditionally, the priorities of the white wheat breeding program at hays have been to advance agronomic characteristics and yield first and only begin flour quality testing after several years of advancing the top lines.
The partnership with ADM turns that process around, putting breeding for baking quality on an equal footing with yield and agronomic qualities.
"Kansas farmers are very important to ADM Milling and we know that quality starts with agronomics. Our goal is to be able to advancehard white winter wheat lines that have both good yield potential and good end use quality," Weigel said. "We are proud to support K-State and Kansas farmers.
He said ADM continues to see a growing demand for whole wheat products and that hard white winter wheat is in high demand for those products.
Zhang told Thursday's event attendees that over the last two years, he and his colleagues have characterized about 1,000 breeding lines with molecular markers, determined the effects oof those markers on processing qualities and identified several lines with possible new genes related with grain protein or polyphenol oxidase, both of which are important to baking quality.
The research station at Hays has been fully committed to hard white winter wheat production since 1987 and the popular western Kansas varieties Trego and Danby were both released from the Hays program.
Wheat breeding typically takes ten to 12 years, but Zhang said advanced technologies are enabling that time frame to be shortened to eight or nine years.
Producers have been slow to embrace growing white wheat, mostly because of identify preservation issues, but it is widely grown in a couple of southwest Kansas counties where growers have switched to 100% white wheat.
The wheat breeding program at Hays is a leader in white wheat variety research and western Kansas is well-suited for production due to ideal environmental growing conditions.
ADM Milling is a leader in white wheat milling, with strong origination and sourcing capabilities in western Kansas.