Texas A&M AgriLife represented higher education institutions at Wheat 101, an event that brings together members of Congress, their staffs and the wheat industry value chain.
Wheat 101 is hosted by the National Wheat Foundation to bring the wheat value chain together to show members of Congress and their staffs just how important and expansive the wheat industry is to the economy and food supply, said Chandler Goule, CEO of the National Association of Wheat Growers and executive director of the National Wheat Foundation.
Amir Ibrahim, Ph.D., Texas A&M AgriLife Research wheat breeder and professor in the Texas A&M College of Agriculture and Life Sciences Department of Soil and Crop Sciences, represented Texas A&M AgriLife at the event, whose attendees included Sen. Debbie Stabenow, Michigan, chairman of the Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry.
The value chain exhibit began with Texas A&M AgriLife, part of a land-grant university using genetics and breeding techniques to develop new wheat cultivars, Ibrahim said. The land-grant role also includes bringing together education, research and extension.
Others joining Texas A&M AgriLife and the National Association of Wheat Growers and National Wheat Foundation to represent the wheat supply chain included the BNSF Railroad, American Seed Association, Bayer Crop Sciences, General Mills, American Millers Association, American Bakers Association and several credit, transportation and lobbying organizations.
Adding value to wheat
The value of public breeding programs within land-grant institutions has been the main message of Texas A&M AgriLife for the Wheat 101 audience over the last six years, during which Ibrahim has attended the event alongside Jackie Rudd, Ph.D., AgriLife Research wheat breeder in Amarillo.
“Here at Texas A&M AgriLife, our wheat team extends beyond the breeding fields and research labs,” Ibrahim said. “We go to the producers’ fields via our Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service to provide education on the latest varieties and management techniques. We also reach consumers through our wheat improvement program, where food quality management research is conducted to improve milling and baking properties.”
Texas A&M AgriLife is known for breeding the popular TAM varieties grown throughout the Great Plains because of their resiliency across a wide range of environments, Rudd said.
“Equally important, though, is the third leg of our land-grant role, which is the education of students who are now working in agriculture careers across the world, including many in positions along the wheat value chain,” he said.
The two wheat breeders said that improvements to wheat varieties and management practices over the life of the breeding program have increased Texas yields from 11 bushels to 40 bushels per acre, thus increasing food value from about $330 per acre to $8,000 per acre.
“Our research has led to varieties with improved insect and disease resistance, excellence in milling and baking qualities, and improved adaptability and forage performance,” Ibrahim said. “We have made great progress, but we will need to adapt our program to a changing environment if we are to continue feeding a growing world population. Meeting this challenge will require ongoing funding. That is why Wheat 101 is such an important opportunity for us to tell the story of the wheat value chain.”