CORVALLIS, Ore. - Jim Peterson, Oregon's wheat breeder and the leader of Oregon State University's wheat variety development program, has accepted a position as the vice president of research with Limagrain Cereal Seeds.

Peterson will start on May 1 but will work part time at OSU through July 31 to facilitate the program's transition. In his new job, he will help Limagrain build a North American wheat breeding and seed program, which will be headquartered in Fort Collins, Colo. Limagrain Cereal Seeds is the newest subsidiary in the Limagrain group, which is a farmer-owned cooperative in France and the largest plant breeding and seed-development company in the European Union.

Peterson will leave behind an active variety development team. It includes agronomists Mike Flowers and Steve Petrie; cereal chemist Andrew Ross; biotechnologist and geneticist Oscar Riera-Lizarazu; plant pathologist Chris Mundt; and weed scientists Carol Mallory-Smith, Andy Hulting and Dan Ball.

Peterson joined OSU in 1998 and has overseen the development of nine wheat varieties, which are grown throughout the Pacific Northwest. They accounted for more than 60 percent of all winter wheat grown alone or in blends in Oregon last year.

Peterson was involved with the development of OSU's herbicide-tolerant Clearfield varieties, which returned more than $800,000 in royalties to the university last year for a total of $3.2 million since 2003. Additionally, program varieties are contributing to dramatic increases in wheat production in the Willamette Valley. 

As chair of the National Wheat Improvement Committee since 2005, Peterson has led efforts to increase federal funding for wheat research. His visits to Capitol Hill have helped to increase annual appropriations to the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Agricultural Research Service by $3 million to develop varieties resistant to stem rust, including the Ug99 fungus.

"I am proud of what we have accomplished the past 12 years and I leave the program with a strong base of germplasm and research for the future," Peterson said. "In my new position, I look forward to working with OSU and other universities to develop innovative public-private collaborations in research and breeding and to bring exciting new products and technologies to wheat growers."

Discussions on strategies for identifying new leadership for OSU's wheat variety development program are under way. The university will immediately begin conversations with growers, wheat industry partners, the USDA's Agricultural Research Service and regional university partners to assess the program and prepare it for the future.

"The wheat variety development program is one of the premier programs at OSU," said Russ Karow, the head of OSU's crop and soil science department. "It is our intent to continue to innovate and ensure that this program remains the best in the west." 

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Russ Karow, 541-737-2821