By Lillie-Beth Brinkman
Copyright (©) 2015, The Oklahoma Publishing Company
PHILADELPHIA — A representative from the Samuel Roberts Noble Foundation in Ardmore is attending the 2015 international convention of Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO) to promote that organization’s work in agriculture, including its efforts to develop year-round grazing and its relatively new national initiative with the Farm Foundation to study soil science more in depth.
“First and foremost, we want to make sure we help promote the biosciences in Oklahoma to the rest of the world,” Moen said. “We’re looking for any partner who has made advancements in plant science or is working in areas that we’re working in or might have challenges that they have identified.”
Agriculture represents a smaller but important part of the Oklahoma delegation’s efforts to showcase the state’s bioscience industry, said Josh O’Brien, with the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber.
“I’ve been doing this a long time and we always get a lot of conversation about agriculture,” O’Brien said, noting that both Noble and Oklahoma State University are key pillars of the state’s agriculture research because of the science they are doing and strong reputations. OSU sent representatives to BIO this year as well.
At BIO this year, Moen hoped to start conversations around two key new programs at the Noble Foundation, whether the foundation, with its 350 employees that include 150 with doctorates, could help that organization or benefit from their products products.
Grazing system launch
First, The Noble Foundation has launched a new initiative to develop a year-round sustainable grazing system for ranchers, called Forage365. Tailored for the Southern Plains region right now, this effort, when implemented, would help ranchers reduce their costs of bringing in hay during winter months, as well as improve water quality and be more sustainable.
To implement it, the foundation is looking at how to develop different varieties of forages and grasses in four pillar species — winter wheat, grass, tall fescue and alfalfa — that will grow year round, Moen said.
“We’re bringing up plants that are more tolerant, more resistant, increasing yields,” Moen said. “That involves the understanding of the biology of that plant.”
The foundation released four different plant varieties in the last year that are for sale — new varieties of wheat, oat, rye and triticale. They are all available through Oklahoma Genetics, Inc.
The Noble Foundation’s other initiative with a broader focus is the Soil Renaissance, a collaboration with the Farm Foundation that was announced last year.
For years, research has focused on plant and animal interaction and how to make plants more drought and disease resistant. However, researchers haven’t looked as deeply beneath the soil, Moen said. While there are soil experts, often they work regionally and don’t have as much opportunity to share their research.
The Soil Renaissance seeks to change that so agriculture producers can benefit.
The initiative takes the foundation back to its roots from its founding in 1945 in order to study soil management and fight erosion, Moen said.
The Soil Renaissance’s goals include establishing a standard system of measuring soil no matter what kind of dirt it is. The project is working with scientists from around the country and looking for additional funding partners, Moen said.
The project will require a lot of biotech research and both soil and plant scientists working together to grow healthier, more sustainable crops, he said.
Moen said at BIO he wanted to both find ways to benefit his organization and have the foundation benefit others.
“That spirit of collaboration goes both ways,” he said.
Lillie-Beth Brinkman is content marketing manager for the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber, which is a member of the Oklahoma Bioscience Association and a supporter of the OKBio booth at the 2015 BIO international convention.