March 9, 2013 07:36 AM

Wheat Growers Association Names Leader of the Year

The National Association of Wheat Growers (NAWG) presented its 2012 Wheat Leader of the Year award to Congresswoman Debbie Stabenow (R-Mich.). Stabenow is chair of the Senate Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry Committee.

Debbie Stabenow

In recognition of her leadership on farm bill legislation, Congresswomen Debbie Stabenow was presented the Wheat Leader of the Year award by (from left) Bing Von Bergen, NAWG first vice president; Brett Blankenship, NAWG secretary/treasurer; and Erik Younggren, NAWG president.

The award is given annually to a member of Congress who demonstrates commitment to the well-being and goals of the wheat industry. Minnesota farmer and NAWG president Erik Younggren says Stabenow was selected because of her diligence and leadership on farm bill legislation in the 112th Congress.

"Though a farm bill ultimately didn’t get done last year, our growers are confident that Chairwoman Stabenow did everything in her power to push it forward, and she has already shown her commitment to do the same in this new Congress," he says. "We’re happy to honor her in this way and hope to continue our close relationship with the Chairwoman and her office in the coming years."

Additionally, the Michigan Wheat Program joined the official NAWG ranks in January. "We have a state with strong leadership, as illustrated by Senator Stabenow," says David Milligan, Michigan Wheat Program. "It only makes sense to also have a strong wheat grower organization. We are very pleased to be admitted into NAWG and for them to recognize Senator Stabenow."

A New Way to Fight Fungi?

Wheat Fungi

The Petri dish is an important research tool, as scientists look for Pseudomonas bacteria that can control wheat fungi.

USDA scientists are turning to Mother Nature to explore new solutions against yield-damaging fungal pathogens. Scientists with the USDA-Agricultural Research Service (ARS) in Pullman, Wash., are investigating several strains of soil-dwelling bacteria to see if any of them could potentially offer biological control of root-rot fungi. Pat Okubara, a geneticist at the USDA-ARS Root Disease and Biological Control Research Unit in Pullman, is heading a project looking at 11 distinct bacterial species of the genus Pseudomonas that slow the growth of Pythium and Rhizoctonia fungi, two pathogens that cause several root rot diseases in wheat and barley.

Okubara says they are focusing on what exactly the Psuedomonas bacteria produce to provide this control, whether it’s a particular enzyme, protein, etc. 

The long-term goal is to develop commercialized products for farmers, he says.

"The philosophy behind biocontrol is to control these pathogens and other pests long enough that the plant has a running start," Okubara says. "The better the roots, the better the plant and the better the chance of better yields."

Sesquicentennial Style

It’s standard for a university to celebrate its sesquicentennial (150-year) anniversary—it’s a testament, after all, to the institution’s staying power.

Kansas State University (KSU), which celebrates its sesquicentennial anniversary in 2013, has found a unique way to commemorate the occasion—with a KSU-themed wheat variety dubbed "1863." The variety honors the year that KSU opened as the nation’s first operational land-grant university under the Morrill Act.

"Having a commercial wheat variety named in celebration of the university is a neat connection to our heritage," says Megan Umscheid, coordinator for the sesquicentennial celebration. "It’s a really unique way to remind people of our roots."

1863 is a hard red winter wheat that has Overley, Karl 92 and Cutter as the parent varieties. It will be commercially available for purchase from the Kansas Wheat Alliance licensed seed producers in fall 2013.

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