THE Kansas Wheat Innovation Center continues to expand as Wheat Genetics Resource Center (WGRC) scientists get settled into a new laboratory space at the center.
A little more than a year after the center was built, additional construction has allowed wheat research capabilities to grow.
Jon Raupp, senior scientist for WGRC who made the move to the innovation center long before the lab space was finished, said he is excited to be working in the updated space.
"I remember when we were storing seed on a bench," Raupp said. "Now, to have this facility is amazing."
Originally located in Throckmorton Hall at Kansas State University, WGRC outgrew its lab space and gene bank storage, and the Kansas Wheat Commission was able to help.
Through a National Science Foundation grant, WGRC became the first plant science National Science Foundation Industry/University Cooperative Research Center. This required space extending beyond what was offered in Throckmorton Hall, so the Kansas Wheat Innovation Center began building again.
"The Kansas Wheat Commission has been the anchor through all the ups and downs, and I think their role — and the role of the Kansas farmer — is huge," said Bikram Gill, the center's director. "The biggest secret to our success has been having good rapport with Kansas wheat farmers. I don't think we could have succeeded without them."
The Kansas Wheat Commission and Kansas wheat farmers have been supporters of WGRC since the beginning through an initial $10,000 research grant in 1982 that allowed the center to grow and be recognized by the Kansas Board of Regents as a national center of excellence by 1984. The center has continued to grow, and now, more than two dozen scientists are working to turn wild wheat genetics into usable wheat genetics for crop varieties.
Gill said these recent improvements have made him very optimistic about the future of the center.
WGRC collects, conserves and utilizes wild wheat germplasm for crop improvement and sustainable production. With a gene bank that houses more than 2,500 wheat species accessions, the center holds a lifetime of work for scientists hoping to improve wheat varieties and the wheat industry.
WGRC is unique because the research being conducted on wild wheat genetics directly benefits Kansas farmers through new wheat varieties. The wild wheat germplasm contains traits that are targeted through research for drought, insect and disease resistance, protein content and more.
The partnership between WGRC and the Kansas Wheat Commission has led to the creation of not just the Kansas Wheat Innovation Center but also Heartland Plant Innovations and Earth's Harvest. Together, the groups are working to protect and expand the impact of genetic resources to address issues such as food security, genetic diversity and crop improvement.