Joe Anderson, a commissioner on the Idaho Wheat Commission stopped by the Farm Bureau offices in Boise to discuss the new Ag research endowment at the University of Idaho. Joe and wife Pam farm 3400 acres near Potlatch, Idaho.
A new $2-million dollar endowment was established at U of I for wheat research, what sorts of things do we need to sustain Idaho wheat?
Any crop impacted by weather influences has to have continuing research and development. Our ability to conduct agricultural research education has been impacted at federal, state, even county levels. I think Idaho Wheat Growers believe that we are in a new day and time and if we are going to compete for acres and the marketplace globally, we're going to have to maintain and enhance research to improve varieties of wheat. Specifically, we need to increase the efficiencies of production in this state. At the same time we’re vastly short of agricultural scientists in this country. The average age of a plant scientist working in the U.S. is 57 years old. Right now a plant breeder can name their salary because companies as well as universities are looking for them. So this era of cannibalizing researchers and constantly searching for plant breeders is bothersome. Hopefully this endowment will ease the problem and encourage some of the best and brightest students to get into plant science. We want to start a work study program as soon as possible, if they show promise, prospective students would get a 4 year scholarship for undergad work and work in wheat research programs. In just a few years we can turn out young plant scientists to replace that aging workforce.
What sorts of innovations do we need to stay sustainable in the world marketplace?
We need programs that have enough variability in the germ plasm base to be able to very quickly incorporate various types of germ plasm into varieties that are adapted. That's part of the incentive to partner with these companies, that we will have technology to do that. Its still plant variety development at this point but we need to speed up the process of getting genetics into a new varieties.
We as wheat commissioners are interested in bringing partnerships between the University of Idaho, School of Ag, Life Sciences and private companies. We were approached about the Lima Grain cereal seed in May, but couldn’t talk about it at the time because everyone wanted to make sure the agreements were in place. The Idaho Wheat Commission has a commitment and we believe that perhaps the capabilities of private companies and the university can be brought together in a much more timely fashion to address changing needs.