MANHATTAN, KANSAS, U.S. — Kansas State University (KSU) has been selected to be the lead academic institution for the first National Science Foundation (NSF) industry/university cooperative research center on wheat, the university said. The center began operations on July 29. 

Named the NSF I/UCRC Wheat Genetics Center, the facility is the first of its kind devoted to the study of an agricultural crop. The other 61 industry/university research centers in the U.S. that are part of the NSF are mostly devoted to the study of engineering and electronics. 

The center will focus on improving food production and disease resistance of wheat and other crop plants and will serve as a training ground for graduate students and young researchers. 

The NSF center is an addition to both KSU and Colorado State University, with KSU serving as the lead institution, the university said. Bikram Gill, a professor of plant pathology at KSU and director of the university’s Wheat Genetics Resource Center, is director of the new center. 

Collaborators include KSU’s departments of agronomy, plant pathology, entomology and grain science and industry; the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s plant science and wheat genetics units; the Kansas Wheat Commission; the Kansas Wheat Alliance and corporations, including Bayer CropScience, Syngenta, Limagrain, Dow AgroSciences LLC, General Mills, Inc. and the Heartland Plant Innovation Center. 

The NSF awarded a seed grant to start the research center, with the stipulation that at least three industry partners had to join and financially back the center. Gill noted that 10 companies signed on as partners. 

The university said the Kansas-based research center largely will be housed at the Kansas Wheat Innovation Center in Manhattan, Kansas, U.S., where research will be conducted on wheat germplasm improvement, using the Wheat Genetics Resource Center’s wheat gene bank, which maintains about 14,000 wild wheat species strains and about 10,000 genetic stocks.