OSU licenses new herbicide-tolerant wheat variety

May 23, 2003

PENDLETON - Oregon State University's Wheat Breeding Program will release a new variety of herbicide-tolerant wheat this summer. With this new release, OSU enters a new era of product licensing and intellectual property.

Named ORCF-101, the new soft white winter wheat variety contains a gene for herbicide tolerance patented by the BASF Corporation, an international chemical company. The gene makes the wheat tolerant to the BASF herbicide "Beyond." The herbicide and the herbicide-tolerant seed are marketed together as a production system called CLEARFIELD.

Unlike some other herbicide tolerant crops, ORCF-101 was developed using traditional plant breeding methods and not by genetic engineering. According to OSU wheat breeder Jim Peterson, the BASF gene adds one novel trait to the heritage of Pacific Northwest germplasm developed over decades by the OSU Wheat Breeding Program. And because ORCF-101 is not genetically modified, it has no marketing restrictions.

"In many ways, breeding and selection have been the easy part," said Peterson. The greater challenge, he says, has been to provide growers with wide access to the new technology while satisfying stewardship requirements of the CLEARFIELD production system and managing intellectual property rights of both OSU and BASF.

This is new ground for the OSU Wheat Breeding Program. Over the last two years and with the help of a grower-industry advisory committee, OSU has developed a non-exclusive licensing strategy for the release and commercialization of ORCF-101.

"We have worked very hard to ensure our efforts and commercialization plans are in the best interest of our growers and the wheat industry," said Peterson. "Short term, our goal has been to provide growers with a new variety and management option for problem weed situations. Long-term, we want to ensure we can access new genes and technologies, effectively collaborate with industry, and continue delivering superior wheat varieties to our growers."

Peterson points to commercialization of the CLEARFIELD technology as an important step for OSU in developing successful public-private collaboration in breeding and genetics research.

ORCF-101 seed producers will need to meet specific eligibility and performance requirements and become licensed before they can produce and sell seed stocks. A $2,000 license fee and a two-cent per pound royalty accessed on all certified seed sales will help recover OSU's costs of technology access, licensing, protection and stewardship.

Proper stewardship of both the variety and herbicide will be critical to ensure viability of the CLEARFIELD technology. Growers must attend BASF-sponsored training and sign a stewardship agreement prior to seed purchase. They must purchase certified seed for planting and are not allowed to generate their own seed stocks for replanting.

ORCF-101 was bred from major Pacific Northwest varieties including Stephens, Madsen, and Malcolm and will "fit right in with current varieties, in terms of yield, performance, disease resistance and end-use quality for the marketplace," said Peterson.

"Beyond" is a broad-spectrum herbicide effective against jointed goatgrass, downy brome, wild oat, feral rye, Italian ryegrass, and other grasses. It has a similar mode of action to many other herbicides now used in the Pacific Northwest. The use of certified seed and herbicide rotation will be part of proper stewardship, according to Peterson.

Foundation seed of ORCF-101 will be available in August 2003. The first certified seed stocks for commercial plantings are expected to be available in fall, 2004.

OSU has planned several events to discuss research, stewardship and release strategy of the new CLEARFIELD wheat variety. The topic will be highlighted during Field Days, on June 10 at 4 p.m. at the Columbia Basin Agricultural Experiment Station near Pendleton, and June 11 at 1 p.m. at the Sherman County Experiment Station at Moro.

An informational meeting and training session for interested seed producers will be held on June 23 at 1 p.m. at the Pendleton Convention Center.

A website provides information on seed licenses, variety performance, technology stewardship and management recommendations. The web address is: http://cropandsoil.oregonstate.edu/group/wheat.

Note to Editors: CLEARFIELD is a registered trademark and Beyond is a trademark of BASF Corporation.

Author: Peg Herring
Source: Jim Peterson