Grain News

Wheat Genetics Resource Center and Kansas Wheat Innovation Center Partnership Prospers

Date Posted: April 24, 2014

Manhattan. KS—The Kansas Wheat Innovation Center continues to expand as Wheat Genetics Resource Center scientists get settled into their new lab space at the center.

A little over a year after the center was built, additional construction allowed wheat research capabilities to grow.

Jon Raupp, senior scientist for the WGRC who made the move to the innovation center long before the lab space was finished, said he is excited to be working in the updated space.

"I remember when we were storing seed on a bench," Raupp said. "Now to have this facility is amazing."

Originally located in Throckmorton Hall at Kansas State University, the WGRC outgrew their lab space and gene bank storage and the Kansas Wheat Commission was able to help.

Through a National Science Foundation grant, the WGRC has been able to become the first plant science National Science Foundation Industry/University Cooperative Research Center.

This required extended space than what was offered in Throckmorton Hall, and Kansas Wheat began building again.

Bikram Gill, the center's director said the Kansas Wheat Commission has always been an organiztion that the WGRC could depend on. They have always "had our back," he said.

"The Kansas Wheat Commission has been the anchor through all the ups and downs, and I think their role, and the role of the Kansas farmer is huge," Gill said.

"The biggest secret to our success has been having good rapport with Kansas wheat farmers. I don't think we could have succeeded without them."

The Kansas Wheat Commission and Kansas wheat farmers have been supporters of the WGRC since the beginning.

An original $10,000 research grant in 1982 allowed the center to grow to be recognized by the Kansas Board of Regents as a National Center of Excellence by 1984.

The center continued to grow; now more than two dozen scientists are working to turn wild wheat genetics into usable wheat genetics for crop varieties.

Gill said these recent improvements have made him very optimistic about the future of the center.

"The greatest strength of our center is that we have understanding from farmers, the wheat commission, university and industry so we are all working together," Gill said.

"As a result we can access resources so we can make projects that will create progress."

Founded in 1982, the WGRC collects, conserves and utilizes wild wheat germplasm for crop improvement and sustainable production.

With a gene bank that houses more than 2,500 wheat species accessions, it is a lifetime of work for scientists hoping to improve wheat varieties and the wheat industry.

The WGRC is a unique gene bank and center because the research being conducted on the wild wheat genetics directly benefits Kansas farmers through new wheat varieties.

The wild wheat germplasm contains traits that are targeted through research for use of traits such as drought resistance, insect and disease resistance, protein content and more.

The partnership between the WGRC and Kansas Wheat has led to the creation of the Kansas Wheat Innovation Center, Heartland Plant Innovations and Earth's Harvest.

Together, the groups are working to protect and expand the impact of genetic resources to address issues such as food security, genetic diversity, and crop improvement.

For more information, call 785-539-0255.

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