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Farmers are breeder's 'weathervane'

Published on March 9, 2013 3:01AM

Last changed on April 5, 2013 9:17PM

UI's Jack Brown will take over wheat and canola programs


Capital Press

University of Idaho oilseed breeder Jack Brown will also manage the university's wheat breeding efforts.

Brown originally suggested the move when breeder Bob Zemetra left in 2011 to become wheat breeder for Oregon State University.

"It's very important to maintain continuity in a breeding program," Brown said. "A breeding program that doesn't have leadership can lose direction very quickly."

Brown will take over the canola and wheat programs, with the long-term goal of appointing a full-time wheat breeder in a few years.

Brown plans to continue the program's long-running objectives -- serving Idaho farmers by developing high-quality, high-yielding soft white winter wheat varieties uniquely adapted to the area that can be grown in an environmentally sustainable system with low inputs.

Brown is open to hearing from wheat farmers about issues they face.

"I've always had the Idaho growers be my weathervane," he said. "They've always been really good at directing me toward where the program should be going."

He will target disease resistance, primarily stripe rust, cephalosporium stripe and diseases that haven't necessarily taken a front seat before.

"We have to take a forward look, not just at the diseases in the past as they exist today, but also the ones that are going to be more prevalent in five, 10 or 20 years," he said.

Brown also hopes to focus on potential changes to the environment, working with Sanford Eigenbrode's Regional Approaches to Climate Change program.

"If climate change truly is a phenomenon that's going to be continuing in the future, it's absolutely critical our wheat-breeding cultivars are adapted to any changes, small or large, that are likely to occur in the short- to long-term," Brown said.

The university collaborates with Limagrain Cereal Seed, which Brown said is an "ideal mesh" that's going "exceedingly well." UI and Limagrain will introduce each other's germplasm into their programs.

Brown said he hopes to release high-quality wheat cultivars "shortly."

"All I can say is we have some excellent material and we will accelerate that material into the marketplace at the earliest possible time," he said. "Our partnership with Limagrain is something that's going to help us achieve this goal quicker now than ever before."

Brown plans to hire two full-time support staff members to assist in running the program.

Brown said the program will work closely with Jianli Chen's breeding program in Aberdeen, Idaho, and with UI Extension faculty.

"The breeding program has a long history of success, and I would like to hope that success would continue," Brown said.


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