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OSU Scientist ‘Got It Right’ With Wheat Research

Monday, January 24, 2022

Having grown up in Georgia, Brett Carver never hesitated with attending the University of Georgia for his higher education. What he did hesitate with was what he would study when he got there.


“I was not a confused lad. I simply wanted to get it right,” said Carver, Oklahoma State University Regents Professor and wheat genetics chair in plant and soil sciences. “The thought of being educated in a field of biological science was deeply rooted, but which field of science was not determined until my junior year. What truly sealed the deal was my work experience in the Miller Plant Sciences building, first in a soil chemistry lab and later in a cotton breeding program.”


From there, Carver pursued a master’s degree in biochemistry and a doctorate in plant genetics at North Carolina State University. 


“Near the end of my Ph.D. program, I had the chance to interview for a wheat quantitative genetics research position in Stillwater or hold out for a USDA-ARS position much closer to home. That October 1984 trip to Stillwater forever changed my definition of home,” Carver said.


His research in wheat breeding and genetics at OSU entails much of what he studied on trait inheritance in wheat as a junior faculty member. Much of that research is now applied to his and colleagues’ research on variety development in acid soil tolerance, grazing tolerance, disease resistance or genotype x environmental interactions.


Carver said near-future endeavors include redirecting the OSU Wheat Improvement Team (WIT), capturing value from what the wheat plant can do not only for producers and end users but for consumers, and laying a firm foundation for the next OSU wheat breeding lead.


“Personally, I am less consumed with wrapping up my own career than ensuring a successful launch of another. Momentum is momentous,” he said.


Carver said the investment and trust others continue to place in him regarding their livelihood is what makes him passionate about his work. 


“Oklahoma wheat producers have always longed for locally adapted genetics. This does not mean they will accept it outright, but a little transparency, some approachability and germplasm with specific and strong adaptability will go a long way,” Carver said. “After being a non-player in the early 2000s, OSU wheat genetics now account for one of the strongest varietal footprints among all wheat breeding programs in the U.S. breadbasket.”


Another part of Carver’s world that sometimes leaks into his work with wheat varieties is his love of music in that he sometimes gives new wheat varieties names connected to music.


“I am fascinated by music as an art form. I like to relax at the piano but be ultimately challenged at the pipe organ, where an entire orchestra lies at one’s fingers and feet. Turning noise into music is not far apart from turning raw germplasm into a finished variety,” he said.

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