Under the agreement’s terms, which were not disclosed, it is expected Monsanto will gain access to Virginia Tech’s wheat germplasm pool, and Virginia Tech will gain access to the advanced breeding technologies Monsanto continues to develop.
The agreement will focus initially on breeding for attributes that affect yield, including resistance to Fusarium head blight, known as scab, and drought resistance.
University officials said the partnership would leverage existing investments and increase their resources to do such work.
Carl Griffey, wheat breeder and professor of crop and soil environmental sciences at Virginia Tech, said working with companies like Monsanto will give Virginia Tech the potential to more efficiently develop better varieties for growers.
“Virginia Tech will have immediate access to the latest technologies for trait and line selection using marker-assisted breeding and, ultimately, timely access to unique value-added traits, both of which will make wheat production more competitive and profitable,” he said.
The collaboration is non-exclusive, meaning both parties are free to form additional collaborative arrangements with other public or private entities. In fact, Griffey said Virginia Tech will continue to work with other public wheat breeding programs, as it has in the past.
The collaboration agreement was negotiated in consultation with the Virginia Grain Producers Association and is in accordance with principles for collaboration approved by the National Association of Wheat Growers (NAWG) and U.S. Wheat Associates Joint Biotechnology Committee.
The Virginia Tech announcement is the second such agreement Monsanto has entered into with a public breeding program. In June, the company and Kansas State University announced a collaboration, also based on the Joint Biotech Committee’s principles.