The 2011 drought highlighted the importance of drought-tolerance traits when Texas wheat producers saw the second smallest crop in recent history, said Rodney Mosier, Texas Wheat Producers executive vice president in Amarillo. Production only reached 49.4 million bushels, less than half that of an average year.

“Funding research to develop high-yielding, drought-tolerant, disease- and insect-resistant varieties for Texas producers has always been a top priority of the Texas Wheat Producers Board,” said Mosier.  “We are pleased to see the development of this partnership and look forward to continued investment in Texas wheat research.”

Texas Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples said the worldwide need for food is growing with the exploding population.

“Strategic partnerships can yield food security, a necessity for any family,” Staples said. “This collaboration is a reminder of the need to develop technology that empowers Texas food and fiber producers to defy all odds so they can continue producing the safest, most affordable food and fiber of anywhere in the world. I commend Bayer CropSciences for investing in this noble cause and the Texas A&M System for continuing their tradition of bold leadership.”

This agreement is in alignment with decisions made more than 10 years ago when AgriLife Research’s wheat breeding program established two Centers for Excellence – one in Amarillo and one in College Station – and developed a strategic plan, said Dr. John Sweeten of Amarillo, chair of the AgriLife Small Grains Advisory Committee.

Each center houses numerous scientists and utilizes a multidisciplinary approach to cultivar development, including a combination of conventional and molecular breeding techniques, Sweeten said. The Small Grains Strategic Plan was updated in 2008, and this new agreement directly addresses four of the seven major goals of that plan.

AgriLife Research also maintains a wheat quality lab at Texas A&M that concentrates on improving bread quality and working toward specialty wheat projects such as tortillas and other flat breads, said Dr. David Baltensperger, Texas A&M soil and crop sciences department head.