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  • By Lynda Kiernan-Stone, Global AgInvesting Media

Northern Seed LLC to Carry Forward MSU Durum Wheat Program

Montana State University (MSU) has signed an agreement to transfer the license of more than 700 developmental lines of durum wheat to Montana-based Northern Seed, LLC.

The lines that the company will assume will come from the durum breeding and genetics research program run by Joyce Eckhoff upon her retirement after 28 years with MSU’s Eastern Agricultural Research Center, where she served as a professor of agronomy and interim superintendent. With no one available at the university to take over the program, Montana State decided to look to the private sector to take over the program.

“This deal with Northern Seed is a unique agreement because we didn’t option single varieties to the company, but rather we agreed to have them carry forward the entirety of these developmental lines from the breeding program of Dr. Eckhoff,” said Renee Reijo Pera, MSU’s vice president of research and economic development.

Durum is the hardest, and considered one of the most nutritionally important, varieties of wheat. U.S. durum is exported to over 20 countries with Europe being the top importer, followed by MENA and Latin American markets.

Wheat research conducted at MSU has developed varieties offering higher yields and increased resistance to pests and diseases, and is critical to Montana’s 5.5 million acre wheat crop, which carries a value of $1 billion. MSU is responsible for developing more than 43% of the state’s winter wheat crop and more than 31% of the state’s spring wheat crop.

“We are pleased that the legacy of MSU research in wheat breeding is continuing to support Montana’s producers, and we are particularly excited that Dr. Eckhoff’s program will continue under direction of researchers at Northern Seed,” said Charles Boyer, MSU vice president and dean of agriculture.

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