Sustaining the gold standard of Northwest wheat


Wheat came to Oregon with the first settlers over the Oregon Trail; and before statehood, wheat was recognized as legal tender, along with silver and gold.

Developing the very best varieties of wheat for the region has been the work of the Experiment Station for more than a century. AES wheat breeders, beginning with agronomist George Hyslop, developed many of the grain varieties that have defined the wheat industry in the Pacific Northwest, including Stephens, a soft white wheat variety still commercially important more than 30 years after it was released.

A continuing challenge is the broad range of plant diseases that keep popping up. Warren Kronstad, OSU’s leading wheat breeder during the mid-20th century, noted that it’s necessary to continually “pyramid,” or breed more durable resistance, into new varieties. After more than a century, AES wheat breeders continue to develop new grains for new markets, adding millions of dollars a year to the regional economy.

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Harvesting wheat with a horse-drawn combine. (Photo courtesy of OSU Special Collections & Archives, P89-398.)