MSU News Service
A program at Montana State University that researches and develops foundation seed varieties for the state’s agricultural producers has a new name.
An extension of the crop breeding programs in the Department of Plant Sciences and Plant Pathology, the Montana Foundation Seed Program’s name is now officially the Montana State University Foundation Seed Program. The name change was approved unanimously at MSU’s September University Council meeting.
Sreekala Bajwa, vice president of agriculture and dean of the College of Agriculture, said the name change accurately reflects the high-quality research conducted by Montana Agricultural Experiment Station, or MAES, plant breeding programs to create new crop varieties.
“This new name gives Montana State University better recognition and ownership of the research we conduct and the public varieties we produce for crop producers across the state,” Bajwa said. “Our new crop varieties are the result of scientific research conducted by MAES scientists and tested across the state to ensure they are best suited to address production challenges in Montana, from pests to drought and more.”
Foundation seed, also known as basic seed, is the direct descendent of breeder seed and is produced under conditions that ensure its genetic purity and identity. The MSU Foundation Seed Program provides foundation seed to statewide producer partners, primarily winter and spring wheat, barley, durum, peas, lentils and chickpeas, with contributions also in safflower, alfalfa, sainfoin, triticale and oats.
According to Doug Holen, MSU Foundation Seed Program manager, each new variety produces between 600 to 1,200 bushels of foundation seed to start and then is sold to seed producers to sell to Montana producers.
The more popular MSU wheat varieties, such as Yellowstone, Warhorse and Vida, produce millions of dollars in revenue via increased yield for the Montana agricultural economy.
Seed varieties are developed based on the needs of Montana growers facing climate, pest and soil challenges in the diverse agroecosystems of the state. The plant breeding programs are supported by MAES and by grower organizations such as the Montana Wheat and Barley Committee.
The university responds with varieties specifically bred and adapted to meet these challenges, initially released as MAES varieties in the foundation stage of production. The MSU Foundation Seed Program has been in existence helping producers for nine decades and has had six program managers in that span of time. Holen has been with the program since 2016.
“This program is only as good as our breeders, and MSU has had incredible ones over the years,” Holen said. He added that the name change is long overdue and gives credit back to the breeders and the research they create at MSU. “This seed goes across Montana and is sold in other states. So, when it shows up at a producer’s doorstep and says MSU Foundation Seed Program, they will know it is quality seed from our institution.”