General Mills, Inc. and South Dakota State University have opened a new oat variety development laboratory on the university’s campus in Brookings. The Oats Research Laboratory will focus on advancing the sustainability and quality of oats in the United States.

“We’re honored to be here working alongside some of the brightest agricultural researchers in the country,” says Jim Kirkwood, vice-president and chief science and technology development officer at Minneapolis-based General Mills. “Our company has made a public commitment to source 100% of our oats by 2020 from growing regions that demonstrate continuous improvement against industry-based environmental metrics. Having a venerable institution like S.D.S.U. as a partner will allow us to do more innovative oat breeding research in the labs and fields — and get us to that goal.”

The new collaborative oat research laboratory is housed in the Young Brothers Seed Technology Building and includes laboratories, greenhouses and access to field trials. General Mills said its agronomists and plant breeders will work alongside the university’s plant breeders, grain scientists, seed experts, environmental scientists, field station managers, and student researchers. The groups will focus on improving the nutritional qualities of oats; developing better performing oat varieties with higher yields; and helping farmers improve agronomy practices to increase sustainability.

“At South Dakota State University, we believe strongly in public/private partnerships and the synergies they bring to research and innovation,” says Barry H. Dunn, president of S.D.S.U. “This relationship combines an international innovator in consumer foods and the leading land-grant institution in the country’s second largest oat-producing state. The new laboratory will be a powerful shared opportunity to enhance agricultural productivity and food production, and help stimulate sustainable economic growth and prosperity.”

South Dakota was the No. 2 producer of oats in 2015, and the state’s public breeding program is one of the mainstays of the state’s agriculture experiment station.

“We have a responsibility as a public-land grant university and agricultural experiment station to provide growers in our state and throughout the U.S. oat varieties and production systems that optimize profitable production and meet the needs of their markets,” says Daniel Scholl, interim dean of the College of Agriculture and Biological Sciences, and director of the South Dakota Agricultural Experiment Station. “South Dakota growers prompted and helped the revitalization of oat variety development at S.D.S.U., and this scientific partnership with General Mills, a major buyer of South Dakota oats, brings value right back to the oat grower.