Wheat research took center stage during the first day of the Annual Kansas State University Congressional Agricultural Assistants tour held this week in Manhattan. The tour provides an opportunity for K-State to highlight major research projects, particularly those funded with federal dollars. It also allows the congressional assistants to meet researchers and learn about the answers their research will provide.
Five congressional staff members flew from D.C. to take part in the two-day event. Others included on the tour were staff members from State Congressional offices, the Kansas Department of Agriculture, the Kansas Water Office and Legislative Research.
“K-State has a great base of faculty expertise, research facilities and a tradition of being a leader in wheat research,” says Justin Gilpin, chief executive officer of Kansas Wheat, “It makes a lot of sense that K-State should lead the country in a lot of these research projects.”
In no place is that leadership more evident than in the recently announced National Science Foundation grant award, creating the world’s first agriculturally-focused Industry/University Collaborative Research Center at K-State and Colorado State University.
The center was a major focus of the time that University Distinguished Professor Bikram Gill spent with the aides. Dr. Gill will be acting as the center director.
Will Zorrilla, business manager of the new center, said, “Dr. Gill presented a new, industry guided model for wheat research investment. This center comes from a network of public and private relationships, a trust and a willingness to work together for the good of the wheat community. Our hope is that the aides saw an exciting opportunity to leverage public funding with private investments that translate into huge economic impacts.”
In addition to the new center, the congressional assistants were also treated to research overviews covering Associate Professor Eduard Akhunov’s work to identify the SR35 stem rust gene and recent PhD graduate, Christian Cruz’s work to understand how blast fungi invade plants. Each presentation proved that K-State continues to be a major leader of research within the U.S. Wheat and Barley Scab Initiative and early detection efforts for rust diseases.
Brandon Harder, Agricultural Legislative Assistant for Senator Jerry Moran, said, “It’s great to be back at K-State and to have the chance to not only see the research projects, but to talk with the researchers. We’re then able to take those stories and conversations back to D.C. to be advocates for the research that is important not only to K-State, but to Kansas.”
Story By: Dalton Henry, Kansas Wheat Director of Governmental Affairs