BILLINGS — What started as a dream years ago for Montana farmers is now a reality with the announcement that Dr. Venugopal Mendu has been selected as the Winifred Asbjornson Plant Sciences Endowed Chair at Montana State University in Bozeman.
Montana Grains Foundation Chair Dale Schuler is a farmer from Carter, and says this is exciting news for Montana’s grain industry.
“What this will do is allow plant science research to focus on whatever the greatest economic challenge is for Montana grain producers,” said Schuler. “We're kind of in a unique position right now with two new wheat breeders that also will be starting at MSU. This should help this researcher complement the work that the wheat breeders are doing, as well as other research scientists at MSU.”
He says the selection of Dr. Mendu will help take MSU’s Plant Science Department to the next level in plant breeding and research.
“An endowed chair position is a prestigious position,” said Schuler. “It also has a perpetual source of funding from the revenue off of the endowment that allows the researcher to spend a little more time doing research and less time searching for money to fund that research.”
He says Montana’s grain industry is also very thankful for Norm Asbjornson $2 million donation to the MSU Plant Science Department because of what the research’s impact could statewide.
“He said if we just increase the yield of wheat by one bushel an acre, just think of the impact it would have across the 180 million acres of wheat that are grown now,” said Schuler.
Dr. Mendu is currently an Associate Professor at Texas Tech University. He received his BS in agriculture and MS in genetics and plant breeding from A.N.G.R Agricultural University in India and a PhD from the University of Kentucky in plant physiology/molecular biology. He is a highly productive researcher who utilizes genomic, genetic, molecular, genome editing, and breeding technologies in his research program. The Montana Plant Science Chair is a position funded in part by the cereal grain industry to support expanded research capacity critical to Montana grain growers.
Recognizing that the depth of research at Montana State University must expand to meet current and future crop science challenges, leaders of the Montana Grains Foundation partnered with the MSU Alumni Foundation to perpetually endow the first Chair in the 120 year history of the College of Agriculture.
Montana grain producers, along with the Foundation, the Montana Grain Growers Association, the Montana Wheat & Barley Committee, and several agribusinesses around the state donated in support of the endowed chair.