MORO - During the last nine years, wheat growers and others have raised $500,000 for an endowment fund to assist operating the Oregon State University Sherman Experiment Station at Moro, which could have closed in the early 1990s because of higher education funding cuts.

Having achieved what they set out to do, endowment fund members now have raised their sights to a new goal of $750,000.

"The real heroes here are the people who wrote the checks," said Ernie Moore, chair of the Sherman Station Endowment Fund and a fourth-generation dryland wheat grower in Moro. "Those people include growers and representatives of agricultural cooperatives, local banks and ag-related businesses.

"There also were people not involved in agriculture at all who donated in honor of farmers they knew who lived here," Moore added. "We've received about 380 donations, most of them from Oregon but a few from Washington."

The endowment fund drive demonstrates the value of the station's research to area residents and others, said Steve Petrie, superintendent of OSU's Columbia Basin Agricultural Research Center (CBARC) in Pendleton. The Sherman station is a branch of CBARC.

The center's 234-acre site in Sherman County serves as the principal facility in Oregon for the study of low-rainfall, non-irrigated, alternate-year cropping. The research focuses on the growing conditions for millions of acres in the dryland areas of eastern Oregon, about 80 percent of the acreage in the region.

Since 1909, OSU scientists at the Sherman station have tested dryland wheat and other cereal varieties. Stephens wheat, developed by OSU scientist Warren Kronstad and the major variety in Oregon for more than 20 years, was named for Dave Stephens, a former OSU cereal breeder and a long-time manager of the Sherman station, Moore noted. Kronstad often conducted variety research at the Sherman station.

Through the decades, researchers and cooperating growers working through the station have also experimented with plowing and tillage methods, soil fertility and chemistry, weed and disease control, crop residue management and crop rotations including lupin, lentil and canola.

Research at the Sherman station led to the release of crested wheatgrass, a mainstay of the forage grasses in the Northwest for decades.

Interest income from the endowment fund is used to purchase equipment such as tractors, drills and mowers for OSU research on no-till techniques, alternate crops, statewide testing and other dryland methods, Petrie said.

Gifts to the endowment fund have taken many forms, including cash, stocks and bonds, real estate, life insurance or percent of crops and gifts by bequest.

The endowment committee for the station is part of a larger group that functions as a liaison between the grower and research community. The committee includes people from Wasco, Sherman, Gilliam and Morrow counties in Oregon, and Klickitat County in Washington.

For more information about the endowment fund can call Ernie Moore at 541-565-3202.

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Steve Petrie, 541-278-4415