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Brett Carver honored by National Association of Plant Breeders

OSU wheat geneticist Brett Carver honored by National Association of Plant Breeders

Plant Breeding Impact Award

STILLWATER, Okla. – Brett Carver of Oklahoma State University’s Division of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources has been named the 2016 recipient of the National Association of Plant Breeders’ Plant Breeding Impact Award.

The national award recognizes an individual responsible for significant advancements in the field of plant breeding, specifically in the area of germplasm or technology development, who have demonstrated measurable impact on crop production.

An OSU Regents professor and holder of the university’s Wheat Genetics Chair in Agriculture, Carver provides program direction for the nationally renowned OSU Wheat Improvement Team. The team has released 20 hard red winter and hard white cultivars since 1998, including the top four varieties planted as part of Oklahoma’s 4.9 million acres of wheat planted in 2016.

Jeff Edwards, head of the OSU Department of Plant and Soil Sciences, said Carver’s Graze-n-Grain variety development program has resulted in wheat varieties that are well adapted to the region and especially the dual-purpose wheat production system that dominates agriculture in the Southern Plains.

“In the Southern Plains, many producers run cattle that graze on the wheat pasture and then pull the livestock off at first hollow stem stage, thereby allowing the wheat to grow wherein they can harvest it as a grain crop come late May or June,” Edwards said. “Think of it as multi-tasking for crops. Wheat growers get a double benefit from their investment.”

Cultivars developed and released by Carver and his team are now grown on 45 percent of Oklahoma wheat acres, 15 percent of wheat acres in the southern Great Plains states and 6 percent of all wheat acres in the United States.

“Add those numbers up and you get 3.2 million acres planted annually to varieties released by the OSU Wheat Improvement Team under Dr. Carver’s leadership,” Edwards said. “This is even more impressive when you consider that slightly less than 5 percent of Oklahoma’s wheat acres were sown to OSU varieties prior to those developed under Dr. Carver’s leadership.”

Just as important as the number of acres being planted are the significant positive effects the OSU-developed varieties are having on those acres. As an example, early planting for forage combined with no-till continuous wheat contributed to an explosion of Hessian fly in 2007.

“Dr. Carver led OSU efforts to develop Hessian fly resistant varieties Duster and Gallagher, which have allowed our producers to continue to implement no-till production practices without sacrificing forage or grain yield,” said Joe Neal Hampton, executive director of the Oklahoma Wheat Growers Association. “These are now the two most widely planted varieties in the state and Hessian fly is mostly under control.”

OSU releases such as Iba and Bentley help wheat growers maintain yield in the water-limited environments of western Oklahoma, while varieties such as Ruby Lee help high-input producers capture yield.

Hampton believes a particular benefit to Oklahoma wheat growers is that Carver always keeps the need for good baking and milling characteristics in mind when developing improved OSU varieties.

“Oklahoma wheat producers and the general public also need to realize OSU is the only land-grant institution involved in the development of hard red winter wheat in the southern Great Plains with a wheat breeding program that is funded by a combination of taxpayer dollars, producer check-off dollars through the Oklahoma Wheat Commission and Oklahoma Wheat Research Foundation, and royalty fees paid on OSU wheat variety releases through Oklahoma Genetics Inc.,” he said.

Hampton said this for-the-people, by-the-people approach stands in contrast to other institutions that rely to some degree on partnerships with national and multi-national corporations.

“One aspect of Brett’s wheat breeding effort that sometimes goes unnoticed is the way he freely shares his germplasm so that other public and private breeding programs can use it as parent lines in developing the next generation of new cultivars,” said Stephen Baenziger, University of Nebraska professor and holder of the Nebraska Wheat Growers Presidential Chair.

Baenziger classified Carver’s work as being “world-renowned and widely used,” adding that Carver’s research “has impact, and is elegant, useful and precise.”

“Brett is a superb communicator of research and has never given a ‘bad talk,’ making numerous presentations to elite schools,” Baenziger said. “Brett is a true professional. He is highly sought after for advice and has been a consultant or reviewer for projects spanning from Moscow to Cairo.”

Carver has expanded his accomplishments in practical plant breeding to include 126 abstracts, 118 technical publications, 136 peer-reviewed journal articles, book chapters and books on genetics and crop improvement. He is perhaps most widely recognized in scientific circles for his work on acid soil tolerance.

“I doubt you can find a plant breeder who has had a greater practical and scientific impact than Dr. Carver,” said Robert L. Bowden, research leader of the USDA-ARS Hard Winter Wheat Genetics Research Unit at Kansas State University. “He has clearly been a key driver of innovative new varieties and management practices that have increased the economic success of farmers and ranchers in our region and beyond.”

Carver is highly regarded by his colleagues in both the public and private sectors, as evidenced by his many previous awards and honors, including the OSU Regents Distinguished Research Award, the Crop Society of America Young Scientist Award, the Governor’s Outstanding Public Service in Agriculture Award and being a three-time recipient of the Wheat Quality Council Millers Award.

“To a young plant breeder such as me, Dr. Carver exemplifies what it means to have an impactful career as a public scientist,” said Esten Mason, associate professor of wheat breeding and genetics at the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville. “When Dr. Carver speaks about the importance of plant breeding, people listen. The impacts of his career stretch across the state of Oklahoma, the country and the globe.”

Carver has advised 24 graduate students and edited Wheat: Science and Trade, a widely-used reference book for graduate students, wheat researchers, processors and practitioners. He is also a co-editor of Yield Gains in Major U.S. Field Crops, published by the Crop Science Society of America.

A Fellow of both the Crop Science Society of America and the Agronomy Society of America – the highest honor presented by each organization – Carver also has chaired the National Wheat Improvement Committee and currently serves on the scientific advisory board of the Wheat Foods Council.