Wheat Genetics Projects Begin This Month at Research Center

Wheat Genetics Resource Center integrated into new Kansas Wheat Innovation Center on K-State campus.

Published on: Nov 8, 2013

Projects for the National Science Foundation Industry/University Cooperative Research Center will begin later this month at the Wheat Genetics Resource Center. The Center was officially moved to the Kansas Wheat Innovation Center on the Kansas State University campus at the end of October.

The opening of the new center marks a milestone in wheat research history, coordinating private and public research in a variety of wheat research partnerships designed to extract genetic material from the 14,000 strains of wild wheat maintained by the WGRC.

Goals in wheat genetics research

Researchers hope to unlock the secrets of resistance to drought and insects and tolerance for heat from the genetic material of wild wheat varieties from all over the world and bring those traits into wheat varieties that meet the needs of farmers and consumers and solve the problems that currently limit wheat production.

The WGRC hopes to be able to cut the time needed from identification of desirable genetic traits to market-ready wheat variety from 13 years to 6 to 7 years, while providing a central location for wheat researchers from all over the world to work together.

"You get the new, better, wheat varieties and you also get a center for attracting wheat researchers and genetics," said Will Zorilla, program manager at Earth's Harvest, a nonprofit focused on expanding the impact of genetic resources. "There will be less duplication and a lot of collaboration. Instead of going out and doing it on their own researchers can focus and work together so they can get more with less resources."

Training students in wheat genetics

Lead researchers will supervise student researchers, at the undergraduate, graduate and post-doctoral levels, providing a future workforce of specialists highly trained in wheat genetics.

Bikram Gill, Kansas State University distinguished professor of plant pathology and director of the WGRC, will also serve as the director of the NSF center.

The new center will be housed at the Kansas Wheat Innovation Center in the Grain Science Complex at Kansas State University. The state of the art facility opened December 2012 and was funded by Kansas wheat farmers who saw a need for further investment in wheat research.