Monsanto opens core U.S. wheat breeding facility

by Eric Schroeder
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Idaho Lt. Gov. Brad Little and Director Celia Gould (Idaho State Department of Agriculture) are on the right. Monsanto representatives, from left: Michael Martin, Sam Eathington, Robb Fraley, Kristin Schneider, Claire CaJacob.

ST. LOUIS — Monsanto Co. held a ribbon-cutting ceremony on July 16 in Filer, Idaho, celebrating the grand opening of the company’s Wheat Technology Center. The new center will serve as the company’s core U.S. wheat breeding R.&D. facility and bring together people and processes to drive innovation in wheat breeding.

“The Wheat Technology Center gathers some of the nation’s top wheat researchers to maximize sharing and collaboration,” said Kristin Schneider, Monsanto’s global wheat breeding lead. “From a breeding perspective, this will help us respond more quickly and efficiently to some of the challenges wheat growers face on their farms.”

As part of its wheat program, Monsanto breeds and commercializes varieties in the major classes of wheat and has a network of hundreds of seed suppliers. In addition to a broad presence with its licensed WestBred Wheat brand in the West, Monsanto also licenses varieties to seed companies in the eastern United States.

Ms. Schneider said increasing breeding efficiency will help bring wheat varieties to market with potential for increased genetic gain.

The new center features a facility for wheat seed cleaning, trial preparation and seed storage, as well as two new greenhouse facilities with an additional 14,000 square feet of growing space and enhanced laboratory space, Monsanto said. The expansion added 17 full-time employees and more than 20 contract seasonal positions at the Filer site, making it the company’s second largest in the state. Monsanto has approximately 1,000 full-time employees in Idaho.

“This is a big day in fostering research and development for agriculture, the wheat industry, and Idaho’s Magic Valley,” said Brad Little, Idaho’s Lieutenant Governor. “Monsanto’s Wheat Technology Center adds to an already fast-growing, world-class cluster of food science and food industry research sites in the Twin Falls area.”

Robb Fraley, Monsanto’s executive vice-president and chief technology officer, said collaboration throughout the industry will be needed to bring forward new technologies in wheat.

“Monsanto is committed to bringing innovations to wheat farmers, and we strive to do this in a way that helps farmers have better harvests while continuing to use resources like water, nutrients and land more efficiently,” Dr. Fraley said. “There are great opportunities that come with driving innovation in wheat, and the opening of the Wheat Technology Center is an example of our continued commitment to the industry.”
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