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New researcher takes reins of historic Noble program

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ARDMORE, Okla. — Xuefeng Ma, Ph.D., joined the Noble Research Institute this year as a new principal investigator and became only the sixth researcher in the last 60 years to lead the organization's small grains breeding program.

Ma will focus on improving small grains (wheat, rye, triticale, etc.) varieties for early fall-winter forage production. Regional agricultural producers also use wheat for both grain and livestock grazing. "There is a forage production gap between warm-season and cool-season perennials from September to March when annual small grains can serve the best," Ma said. "So providing small grains varieties with improved forage performance can have a significant impact."

Ma has worked with wheat breeding and genetics for five years, and small grains genomics for nine years. For the last eight years, he was the manager and senior scientist of genomics and molecular breeding at Ceres, Inc. He received his bachelor's and master's degrees in agronomy, specializing in crop genetics and breeding, from Northwest A&F University in China, and his doctoral degree in agronomy, focusing on cereal genetics and genomics, from the University of Missouri-Columbia. Ma was a postdoctoral fellow in the Noble Research Institute's genetic transformation of forage crops laboratory for three years.

"Xuefeng's background and research was a nice fit, especially when you look at how we use both genomic and traditional breeding methods," said Zengyu Wang, Ph.D., director of the Forage Improvement Division. "We are confident in his ability to write the next chapter in our storied small grains breeding program, which released its first variety to the public in 1956."

Virtually all small grains breeding focuses on grain yield and quality. The main goal of the Noble Research Institute's small grains breeding program is to develop cultivars with high forage yield suitable for sustainable fall and winter grazing, and good grain production as well in the case of dual-purpose wheat.

"Not many organizations have such a rich legacy with small grains," Ma said. "This is a tremendous opportunity, and I'm thrilled to be conducting such important work."


Xuefeng Ma, Ph.D.Xuefeng Ma, Ph.D., joined the Noble Research Institute this year as a new principal investigator and became only the sixth researcher in the last 60 years to lead the organization's small grains breeding program. He will focus on improving small grains varieties, specifically for multi-season forage production.

Noble Research Institute, LLC (www.noble.org) is an independent nonprofit agricultural research organization dedicated to delivering solutions to great agricultural challenges. Headquartered in Ardmore, Oklahoma, Noble’s goal is to achieve regenerative land stewardship in grazing animal production with producer profitability. Achievement of this goal will be measured by farmers and ranchers profitably regenerating hundreds of millions of acres of U.S. grazing lands. Noble aims to remove, mitigate or help producers avoid the barriers that deter the lasting use of regenerative, profitable land management practices in grazing animal production.

Researchers, consultants, educators and ranch staff work together to give farmers and ranchers the skills and tools to regenerate the land in a profitable manner. Noble researchers and educators seek and deliver answers to producer questions concerning regenerative management of pasture and range environments, wildlife, pecan production, and livestock production. Regenerative management recognizes that each decision made on the ranch impacts the interactions of the soil, plants, water, animals and producers. Noble’s 14,000 acres of working ranch lands provide a living laboratory on which to demonstrate and practice regenerative principles and ideas to deliver value to farmers and ranchers across the U.S.

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