LANSING, MI -- Already in its fourth year, the Michigan Wheat Program board has realized the industry needs more "boots on the ground" when it comes to wheat research and education. As a result, the Michigan Wheat Program (MWP) and Michigan State University (MSU) partnered together to develop an agreement to cost-share a new specialist dedicated to helping wheat growers maximize their investments.
MSU Extension senior educator Dennis Pennington has been hired as the new wheat specialist in the Department of Plant, Soil and Microbial Sciences at the University. His selection and position represent additional collaboration between MSU and the Michigan Wheat Program. In addition, the MWP will continue funding work of Martin Nagelkirk, an Extension educator who works with the state's wheat growers.
"Martin's work has been vital to the Michigan Wheat Industry," said David Milligan, the Cass City-area farmer who chairs the nine-member wheat board. "He will remain focused on wheat production research and education while Dennis will focus research projects across the state and Great Lakes region."
To date the Michigan Wheat Program board has funded more than 50 projects and invested more than $1.1 million in wheat research. The MWP has stretched existing resources to their fullest capacity. To move ahead with additional projects and plans as outlined in the strategic plan, it was necessary to add more "boots on the ground" for Extension programming, as well as research.
"It only made sense for us to partner with the Michigan Wheat Program to increase our wheat resources and to support the industry through this collaboration, " said Doug Buhler, director of MSU AgBioResearch. "Dennis will be a great addition to the team."
Pennington was previously a bioenergy educator at Michigan State University Extension, and an agriculture and natural resources educator in Barry and Kent counties. He holds both B.S and M.S. degrees in Crop and Soil Science from MSU. He has a six-year track record of obtaining research grants in bioenergy including corn stover, switchgrass and biodiesel.
Pennington, a Hastings resident, has already worked to ensure that wheat is in the ground this fall to fulfill research plans next spring.
The Michigan Wheat Program is funded by nearly 8,000 farmers who grow wheat in 50 of Michigan's 83 counties. MWP's board seeks to promote the state's wheat industry by funding and supporting the strategic priorities of wheat farmers working with input suppliers, seed producers, millers, end users and consumers. The program was established by a vote of the state's wheat farmers in 2011.