Seed World

Yes, There is an “I” in Wheat

Have you ever heard that there’s an “I” in wheat?

Actually, there are three I’s in wheat! As we look to feed a growing global population, wheat has, does and will continue to play an instrumental role in this effort.


Wheat is a lead provider of calories and protein for diets all over the world. Bread and other wheat flour based food items are a key staple in many countries. Wheat is a key participant in animal feed and the straw is utilized in livestock production. Wheat is also adapted and grown in most of the major food production areas of the world.  


Wheat seems to get left out of the innovation conversation but the advancements over the last several years have been numerous and positive for the grower and consumer. The advancements in disease protection, elite fusarium tolerance, mildew resistance, stronger leaf and stripe rust resistance along with consumer interest such as high fiber, low gluten and micronutrient development are just a few of the exciting innovations developed over the last few years.  

With the discovery of the wheat genome and new breeding techniques like gene editing, the future innovation is unlimited. Can sprouting be eliminated? Is there a way to manage DON? Can high fiber be combined with high protein and elite yields?

This understanding of the genome and utilizing new breeding methods also allow for the breeding community to react more quickly to changing climate and consumer needs. Wheat breeders are anxious to meet these needs head on and provide the solutions growers and consumers need and desire. Of course, this requires investment and a need to see a return on this investment.

Intellectual Property

Ah, yes, intellectual property (IP). This is the “I” that seems to create the most conversation. I actually see IP protection as a benefit to the innovator, grower, consumer and society at large.  

No matter the IP tool chosen by the innovator, it should be considered a social contract with society.  This should and must be the perspective of the innovation provider. Return is provided yet farmer rights are supported, and future innovation assured via access of the protected product at the end of the protection.

Growers are benefitting and profiting from this innovation. Embracing these improvements thru supporting new seed purchases and royalty payments on farm-saved seed is, in essence, supporting the future innovation that will benefit their farm in future years.

Society benefits from this investment in innovation via the improved products bringing a plentiful food supply with the nutritional benefits the consumer need.

Many countries have a royalty collection system for farm-saved seed on protected varieties. There are some differences in each of the systems, some more successful (like Uruguay), others less successful, but all have the goal of supporting innovation and the grower.

PVP’s are the most common IP tool utilized by seed companies across the world. The United States also provides the option of patents. Another common tool is the Single Use Agreement. This is being used in the United States and a pilot project has been launched in Canada.

IP protection is a win win for all stakeholders! IP can drive innovation, bring improved products to growers, meet the demands of consumers and climate change, and most importantly, assist in the process of feeding a growing world.

The I’s have it — wheat has, does and will continue to play an integral role in feeding the world and meeting the new challenges in doing so.