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Commission Approves 2020-21 Research Budget

Posted: Apr 06 2020

The ND Wheat Commission’s research review meeting is one of the most important and intense meetings for board members.  The Commission reviews over 50 research proposals, which include goals and results, presented by key research scientists. Topics range from breeding and genomic selection, disease resistance, quality improvement and everything in between.  The goal of board members is to invest pertinent research that will produce better varieties, improve agronomic performance and expand customer demand.  

Over the years, the Commission has steadily increased its producer funded commitment to research.  “It wasn’t too long ago that the Commission budget allocation for research was under $500,000, now we’re typically budgeting around $1.5 million towards specific research projects and additional support towards worthy projects such as the NDSU Greenhouse Complex, Barry Hall Trading and Risk Management Program and the potential Ag Products Development Center,” says Neal Fisher, NDWC Administrator.  As research efforts expand and competition for markets accelerates globally, the Commission has prioritized funding for wheat research.  Of the five core Commission programs, research is the largest, accounting for 40 percent of the total budget.   

State and federal funding for research has been strained in recent years and researchers are often looking for new sources of funding.   “Research is very important to our producers.  However, producers clearly cannot replace the critically important state and federal primary funding for research.  Along with stress the importance of research funding to our legislative bodies and key policy makers,” Fisher adds.

At this year’s research meeting, the NDWC board approved $1.47 million for research projects, up slightly from last year’s commitment of $1.33 million.  Projects related to end-use quality and breeding (HRS, durum and HRW) make up the largest portion of the budget, followed by agronomics, disease and pest management, soil science, economics and programming for customer education.  In addition to providing actual funding for research projects, the funds from the NDWC have other benefits.  Many of the project leaders have graduate or PHD students working under them.  Philip Volk, NDWC Vice Chair, sees this an important secondary benefit for producers.  “while funding the actual research is important, a secondary benefit is the fact the producer dollars are also helping fund a graduate or PhD student in many cases.  These students will be the next generation working in the industry, providing support to producers and end-users,” he says.

Researchers can also use Commission funding as seed money when applying for larger federal grants.  Dr. Xiwen Cai, a professor of Wheat Genetics and Cytology in the NDSU Plant Sciences Department has obtained about $1.3 million in competitive USDA grants using the funding from the NDWC as leverage.  His project works to identify and characterize new genes for disease resistance and tolerance to water-logging and salt conditions from wild grasses.  In this case, a little bit of producer funding has gone a long way in supporting valuable research.
 

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