OSU offers exclusive license for super soft wheat variety

August 22, 2005

CORVALLIS - Oregon State University has granted a license for a new variety of soft-white winter wheat to Mid-Columbia Producers, Inc., a farmer-owned cooperative based in Sherman County.

The exclusive licensing process will help this superior-quality wheat to be segregated from other varieties, identified in the marketplace and potentially sold at a premium price.

This is the first time a cereal grain developed by plant breeders at OSU has been formally released through only one private company. This license will make it possible to establish identity-preserved production and marketing of the new wheat variety.

In the past, OSU-developed wheat varieties have been released through public release or open licenses, and typically the grain was sold on the commodity market in mixed lots containing several different wheat varieties.

“The future success of many of Oregon’s agricultural industries is likely to lie in identity-preserved markets, providing high-quality products that have real added value to end users,” said Russ Karow, head of OSU’s Crop and Soil Science Department.

Known as ORSS-1757, the new soft white winter wheat variety has lower average grain protein content and exhibits very soft kernel texture, high break flour yields, large diameter cookies and high sponge cake volumes. These traits may be of considerable value to millers and bakers if consistent quality can be supplied on demand, according to Karow. That’s why there is added value to segregating this wheat and preserving its identity through the supply chain.

“However without the commitment of private industry to develop markets and to produce, segregate and deliver identity-preserved grain, we do not think that the potential economic value of this variety will be fully realized,” Karow said. “If successful, we expect this will lead to other identity-preserved marketing opportunities for OSU wheat varieties with value-added traits.

“Oregon wheat growers will benefit from increased market demand and the ability to directly market superior quality identity-preserved grain to quality-conscious customers, increasing the economic returns from investments in research and development.”

The proposal process was completed earlier this summer, and the successful applicant, Mid-Columbia, is enthused about this opportunity, according to its manager, Raleigh Curtis.

“Mid-Columbia Producers believes that a managed identity-preserved program from variety development, seed production, farmer production, to exclusive foreign and domestic end-use customers is essential to fulfill our vision of creating greater economic value for our producer owners and end-use customers,” Curtis said.

"This will be the first soft white wheat variety identity-preserved (IP) program of this type in the United States and perhaps in the world," Curtis added. "We plan to include producers and grain companies throughout Oregon in our IP process and will begin with the planting of 3,000 acres of test fields this fall."

Mid-Columbia Producers intends to provide producer IP contracts for as many as 70,000 acres for planting in the fall of 2006.

“Having the chance to develop a process and market from the ground up in cooperation with end-use customers will provide new challenges, but holds greatest potential for the producer,” Curtis said.

Author: Peg Herring
Source: Russ Karow