Why Public Funding?
Wheat research, both basic and applied, is fundamental to our country’s ability to maintain a healthy, stable and affordable food supply for Americans.
Without research, the challenges of pests and plant diseases will go unchecked and the goal of doubling wheat production before 2030 to feed a rapidly growing population will go unmet.
Public research is so vital because much of it focus on basic research – the investigations that must happen before researchers know exactly how a finding can be used. This work is not generally supported by the private, profit-seeking sector but is essential to ensuring scientists can deliver new solutions for farmers in the coming decades.
Wheat research is done at dozens of labs and institutions around the country, funded by federal and state governments, wheat farmers and private companies.
For historical and agronomic reasons, wheat is disproportionally dependent on public investments for continued crop improvement. An estimated 76 percent of the more than 50 million acres of wheat grown each year in the U.S. are planted with wheat varieties that originated out of the public system.
USDA devotes an estimated $50 million to wheat research within its own labs and at universities around the country. Though this figure may seem high, these investments undergrid a crop worth nearly $15 billion at the farm gate in 2011.
Farmers’ contributions through state-based checkoff programs were an estimated $12 million in 2011 – a figure that is expected to grow as federal and state funds are cut.
Since the commodity price spikes in 2008 made clear the importance of continued investment in wheat, a number of private research companies have announced plans to invest in wheat research. A catalog of announced investments is available here.