Dr. Marla Barnett, hard red winter Wheat Breeder, shows off a few of her popular wheat varieties and a few other wheat varieties in trial plots down in Enid, Oklahoma.
During the week of April 8th, while attending the annual Limagrain wheat breeders meeting in Clermont-Ferrand, France, I was checking the weather frantically like most farmers in Kansas, Oklahoma, and Texas, because a hard early spring freeze was forecasted. My technician, Brent, let me know we received about a quarter inch of sleet/freezing rain at our station near Valley Center, KS. Not what you want to hear this time of year, but ice does have some insulating value – so maybe it isn’t all lost.
As some of you college basketball fans may know, Wichita State University has made it to the Final Four. As a current resident of Wichita, I couldn’t be more excited or proud of the Cinderella story of the mid-major college making it to the Final Four. Way to go Shockers!
What some of you don’t know, or may have forgotten, is that I was born and raised in the basketball crazy state of Kentucky. And yes, I’m aware that my alma mater (the University of Kentucky) didn’t even make it to the “big dance” this year and lost in the first round of the NIT. Don’t remind me. Maybe this ‘one and done’ method of recruiting needs a second look??
A few weeks ago, Don and Jeremiah harvested the crosses we made at their Indiana research station and mailed them to us. Dean, Brent and I opened the boxes and started threshing out the precious F1 seeds. Each seed is very valuable and rare, as they are the only seeds on the planet representing this new genetic cross. (Well maybe not entirely, as us breeders in the region tend to share parents and most likely make several of the same crosses.)
Whenever you are involved in research, you are immediately swamped with acronyms. From TCAP to CSR, I've been in the land of jargon here lately. Here are some of the more commonly used acronyms that a wheat breeder needs to keep up on:
Happy New Year to everyone! This new year has finally brought snow to us in Kansas, which is just what we need, as it's been a dry fall throughout most of the Central and Southern Plains. The little bit of moisture this snow brings is much appreciated by the winter wheat crop. HOWEVER, certain triticale lines and one Hard Red Spring line planted in the fall aren't appreciating the cold temperatures accompanying the snow at all. Several triticale lines are showing classic leaf tip burn symptoms of winter damage, and the one HRS line we planted back on October 11th may be dead entirely.
This week I'm doing my absolute favorite part of my job as a wheat breeder! Making crosses! I've been in Lafayette, IN all this past week working with LCS colleagues Jeremiah Menefee and Don Obert at the soft red winter wheat breeding program greenhouse. I have my crossing block planted here and have come to help with emasculations and pollinations.
Did you have any time to yourself while in Australia to enjoy some of the tourist sites?
Yes I did. I spent a Saturday afternoon in Sydney and was able to see the famous Sydney Opera House and the Sydney Harbour Bridge. I must say the bridge was more exciting than the opera house, as it was much bigger than I thought it would be based on pictures I'd seen. I also treated myself to a scuba dive with sharks! Yes, I really did pay honest money for the chance to swim with sharks. It was in a tank at the Melbourne Aquarium and it was an absolute blast! My favorite personal part of the trip by far!
After an enjoyable weekend in Adelaide, Australia, where I spent some personal time touring the lovely botanical gardens marveling at the gum and fig trees, I arrived Monday morning at the University of Adelaide Waite Research Farm. The national business headquarters of Australian Grain Technologies (AGT) are located here along with the centralized AGT Quality Lab. After touring the Quality Lab and eating some good bread for morning tea, I noted how similar all the testing equipment and procedures were to our own LCS wheat quality lab in Fort Collins, CO. It was then on to the historic Roseworthy wheat breeding node which was founded by the University of Adelaide in 1883. AGT leases the space from the "Uni" now and runs a very large wheat breeding program under the direction of wheat breeder Hayden Kuchel. Yield is the #1 objective here and so they do A LOT of yield plots. We are talking in the thousands here!
My second stop was Narrabri. And it's pronounced Nair-a-BRY for us American speakers.
I was met by Dr. Meiqin Lu, a wheat breeder with Australian Grain Technologies (AGT), at the Narrabri airport. She greeted me with a warm smile and the traditional Aussie salute of waving your hand around your face to bat away the flies. I threw my bags into the back of her SUV and we headed off to see the new building and facilities at the University of Sydney Narrabri Research Station. The land is owned by the Australian Wheat Research Foundation (money collected from wheat growers’ levies). The Foundation leases the land and facilities to the University of Sydney, which in turn subleases the land and facilities to the private breeding company, AGT.
During the second half of October, I am traveling to the Southern Hemisphere to visit our sister company, Australian Grain Technologies, which is based in the Adelaide region of southern Australia. Along with visits to AGT's locations in Waite, Roseworthy, and a field day in Horsham, I will have an opportunity to spend a day with the research staff at the University of Sydney's Plant Breeding Institute in Cobbitty, New South Wales.