As Del Wiedemann toured the Kansas Wheat Innovation Center in Manhattan with his wife, Pat, his enthusiasm could scarcely be contained. From the Center's molecular breeding laboratories, to row-after-row of environmental growth chambers, to the custom-built greenhouse complex, the Innovation Center symbolizes a new future for the nation's wheat industry.
"The word that comes to mind is what teenagers say, and that's 'awesome'," said Wiedeman, a Wakeeney farmer who served on the Kansas Association of Wheat Growers board of directors in the 1980s and was president of the National Association of Wheat Growers in 1990.
Wiedeman was one of nearly 30 past KAWG directors and Kansas Wheat Commissioners who visited the KWIC on Feb. 9. The goal of the first-ever "Wheat Leaders Reunion" was to re-engage those whose leadership shaped the current Kansas wheat industry with a building that, indirectly, they helped create.
Cooperation between KAWG and the KWC has been vital to the strength of the Kansas wheat industry in the past. That the two groups led the building of the Kansas Wheat Innovation Center is impressive, said Ernie Schlatter, a Lebanon farmer who served on the Kansas Wheat Commission in the 2000s.
The tour participants learned how doubled haploid wheat research being conducted at the KWIC will lead to quicker development of wheat varieties suited for Kansas farmers. This research, and future research projects in the Center's 25,000 square feet of laboratory and greenhouse space, has the potential to boost wheat yields and improve efficiency of wheat farmers.