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Kansas Wheat Commission

An interview with Justin Gilpin

Kansas Wheat Commission
The Kansas Wheat Commission is a founding member of the IWGSC and has been a continuous supporter of the consortium since the beginning. Back in November 2004, Kellye Eversole was hired by the Kansas Wheat Commission and Kansas State University to set up a consortium to generate genomics tools for wheat research, which led to the creation of the IWGSC in January 2005. Since then, the IWGSC has been fortunate to always receive support from the Kansas Wheat Commission. This continuous support over the years has been a reminder to funding agencies and the scientific community that the goal of wheat genomics is to enable wheat improvement for growers and consumers.

About the Kansas Wheat Commission

The Kansas Wheat Commission (KWC) is a grower-funded, grower-governed advocacy organization working to secure the future of Kansas wheat in the global market through international trade, research, export system studies and continually improved varieties of wheat. Its mission is to increase wheat producer productivity and profitability through research, education and domestic and international market development. The KWC is funded by a voluntary, two cent check-off on each bushel of wheat produced in Kansas.

Kansas Wheat Commission representative in the IWGSC Coordinating Committee

Justin Gilpin


Justin Gilpin became Kansas Wheat CEO September on 1, 2009. Gilpin is a graduate of Kansas State University’s Milling Science program within the Department of Grain Science and Industry. Before joining Kansas Wheat, Gilpin worked at General Mills, Inc., where he was a wheat buyer for three flour mills. He executed daily wheat market orders on the floor of the Kansas City Board of Trade, worked with flour sales, elevator and mill management, and sourcing wheat from various classes. He has been involved in a number of U.S. Wheat Associates committees, is past-chair of the Kansas City Board of Trade Cash Basis committee, Wheat Quality Council board Member and is an adjunct research scientist for Kansas State University's Department of Grain Science and Industry. He currently serves as Chairman of Heartland Plant Innovations and works daily leading efforts at the Kansas Wheat Innovation Center on the KSU campus.

As an advocacy organization for wheat growers, what are your top 3 research priorities? What are your top 3 challenges?

Research priorities:

  1. Accelerated development of new varieties
  2. Best management and production practices
  3. Trait discovery and genetics


  1. Limited funding resources
  2. Complexity of wheat genetics
  3. The long life-cycle of winter wheat means that research takes longer than other crops.

Fifteen years ago, Kansas Wheat Commission made the decision to support the development of genomic tools and resources and this decision led to the creation of the IWGSC. Why was it important to make this investment?

The Kansas Wheat Commission recognized the need for the genome sequence of wheat. This serves as an operator’s manual for wheat breeding.

How has the Commission strategy to fund research changed over the past 15 years?

The Commission has always been focused on variety development, but recently that focus has narrowed to variety development with end user-preferred traits.

Since 2005, the IWGSC has produced and provided access to many genomic tools and resources. How has the addition of these resources helped the KWC and Kansas wheat producers?

These resources are tools for the researchers whose projects are funded by Kansas wheat farmers. The tools have allowed researchers to refine and focus their proposals to us.

There has been a significant decline in US wheat acreage over the past few decades, is that continuing? What is causing the decline? How do you think the development of genomic resources and efforts to accelerate breeding can help turn this around?

Wheat acres have declined as other crops have been more profitable for farmers to grow. Advanced technologies available for corn and soybeans have not been available for wheat. Going forward, the development of genomic resources and efforts to accelerate breeding will allow for increases in wheat yields, allowing farmers to grow more wheat on a constant number of acres.

Is the Commission funding research on the development of hybrid wheat? Do you think hybrid wheat will allow for more profitability for wheat growers? Do you believe that the combination of hybrid wheat and genomic resources will spur industry investment into the development of better varieties?

The Kansas Wheat Commission is not funding directly hybrid wheat development. Due to the complexities with it, I see hybrid wheat development being done more in the private programs than the public programs. There is public material that has been developed that is feeding into private hybrid wheat development programs.

A key factor that a hybrid wheat variety will bring to the industry is the need to purchase seed on an annual basis versus saved seed where there isn’t a royalty collected. The wheat industry will need to find a way to better capture seed royalties for the breeding programs for them to make investments like they have done in corn and soybeans.

What is the highest research priority right now according to Kansas (or U.S.) wheat growers?

The highest research priority for Kansas wheat farmers is yield improvements. The goal is to improve yields while also improving the quality and milling and baking properties of wheat varieties.

The IWGSC is starting a project to produce high quality sequences to represent the full breadth of worldwide wheat diversity. How important is adding increased diversity to newly developed wheat lines? Why is this important?

Added diversity increases the size of the pool for disease resistance, drought tolerance and other qualities that provide benefits to wheat farmers. Incorporating traits from wild wheat relatives has given us more options for variety development.