Phil Bruckner, left, professor of plant sciences and plant pathology, Jim Berg, research associate

Phil Bruckner, left, professor of plant sciences and plant pathology, and Jim Berg, research associate in the winter wheat breeding program at Montana State University, examine wheat plants. MSU's new Cultivar Development Research Program routes an addtional 30 percent of the royalties generated when MSU licenses crop varieties and puts it toward crop breeding programs. MSU Photo by Adrian Sanchez-Gonzalez

BOZEMAN – A new program at Montana State University aims to increase the amount of money from royalties on crop variety licenses that goes back into crop breeding research.

The Cultivar Development Research Program routes 30 percent of the royalties generated when MSU licenses crop varieties to commercial partners and puts it toward university crop breeding programs.

MSU Vice President of Research and Economic Development Renee Reijo Pera said that is in addition to the 35 percent the university had already been sending back to the breeders.

“The new program means that now 65 percent of royalties will support breeders and their research programs,” she said. “This is in keeping with MSU’s land-grant mission of investing in research to benefit the state of Montana and help grow its economy.”

MSU’s research into the genetics and breeding of cereal grains and pulse crops has led to the development of crop varieties that offer greater yields and improved resistance to diseases and pests. The research programs are carried out by MSU faculty, staff and students in Bozeman and at MSU’s seven agricultural research centers across the state.

Over the past five years, royalties for crop variety licenses generated an average of $180,000 per year, according to the university’s Technology Transfer Office, which markets new varieties and arranges licensing agreements with agricultural industry partners.

The first variety licensed under the Cultivar Development Research Program was MTF1435, a forage winter wheat variety that was licensed to be sold outside Montana. Its sister variety, MTF1432, also called Ray, was publicly released to the Montana market in 2018. Both varieties were created by the university’s winter wheat breeder, Phil Bruckner, and are considered candidates to replace the popular Willow Creek forage winter wheat released by MSU in 2005.

Crop research is integral to Montana’s 5.4 million-acre wheat crop, which is valued near $1 billion annually. MSU-developed varieties account for more than 43 percent of Montana’s winter wheat crop and more than 31 percent of the state’s spring wheat.

“We are pleased that MSU’s research in wheat breeding continues to support Montana producers,” said Sreekala Bajwa, MSU’s vice president of agriculture. “Wheat is a critical component in the Montana economy, and MSU continues to develop, test and release varieties that improve what is already a top-notch, Montana-grown product.”