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Discovery Newsletter Volume 10Discovery NewsletterIssue 7Discovery NewsletterMay 1999

Main PageOn the WebPatents CornerFeatured StoriesIn Focus

New Wheat Variety Licensed to Montana Company


by Annette Trinity-Stevens

A new hard white spring wheat developed at MSU-Bozeman has been licensed to a Montana company that specializes in seed production.

New Wheat Variety Heartland Seed Co. of Moccasin was awarded a contract for exclusive release of the new variety, called MTHW 9420, last month. The company vied for the variety as a way of getting in on the ground floor of something that may be the future of wheat production, said Heartland co-owner Bing Von Bergen. The company produces small grain seeds and sells forage and legumes.

"We think there's going to be a demand for white wheats," Von Bergen said. "We think it's going to go over well."

In the domestic market, some consumers seem to prefer white wheats for whole-wheat breads and other grain products, according to MSU plant scientist and 9420 breeder Luther Talbert. The white wheats produce a lighter and sweeter product. Millers like whites because they are easier to mill and produce a greater amount of flour per kernel than red wheats, he added.

On the international market, where most of Montana's wheat is sold, the hard white wheats make better noodles, Talbert said.

To meet what appears to be a growing demand, MSU began developing two hard white wheats several years ago. The first, a winter wheat named NuWest, was licensed to General Mills last year.

The second, called 9420 until Heartland names it, won't be in contracted production until 2001 when the company has enough seed, said Von Bergen. Seed production at the company begins this spring.

"We'll take growers through the fields this year to show them what it [the variety] looks like," said Von Bergen. "We should have a lot of acres in it next year."

To keep the variety "identity preserved," or separate from red wheats, Heartland plans to contract with millers both in and outside the state. Farmers who contract with Heartland to grow the variety will contract with Heartland to sell it and receive a premium above other spring wheats, assuming the grain meets required specifications, said Von Bergen.

"That's the only way it will work for us and for the growers," he said. "We want to build more premiums into wheat so farmers can make more on wheat and the miller will get one product...uncontaminated with red."

The extra cost of harvesting, storing and shipping hard white wheats separate from reds is why the MSU Exclusive Release Committee voted to license 9420 to one company, said MSU technology transfer official Becky Mahurin. If hard white wheat is contaminated with red, it can no longer be sold at a premium and defeats the goal of adding value to the grain produced, she said.

Mahurin said she thinks the agreement with Heartland is a good one for MSU and Montana. "This is consistent with our philosophy of working collaboratively with Montana companies to do what we can to help them thrive," she said. Twenty-two of MSU's 31 licenses are with Montana companies, she added.
Annette Trinity-Stevens is the MSU Research Editor.

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