Wheat Breeder, Professor Stephen Jones Named Director of WSU Research and Extension Center at Mount Vernon

PULLMAN, Wash. – Stephen S. Jones, whose wheat breeding program at Washington State University has been recognized nationally and internationally, is the new director of WSU’s Northwestern Washington Research and Extension Center at Mount Vernon.

Dan Bernardo, dean of the College of Agricultural, Human, and Natural Resource Sciences, made the announcement today.

Stephen Jones.
Stephen Jones. Click image for a high resolution version.

“Steve is a veteran researcher with a proven track record and an innate curiosity in agriculture that will serve northwestern Washington farmers well,” Bernardo said. “He also is one of the most effective and committed teachers at WSU, which will be key as we look to expand the way we engage students from around the state. I’m excited about the possibilities that this appointment represents for research, teaching and extension.”

Pete Jacoby, associate dean in CAHNRS and agricultural program director for WSU Extension, is serving as interim director at NWREC; he succeeded Associate Plant Pathologist Debra Inglis, who served as interim director for three years.

Bernardo said the transition of leadership at NWREC will begin immediately. Jones will fulfill his research and teaching responsibilities at Pullman and completely assume his new responsibilities in spring 2009. Commodity-scale wheat research projects funded by the Washington Wheat Commission will remain at Pullman.

Jones will take his projects in low-input wheat, perennial wheat, organic wheat and nitrogen use efficiency with him to Mount Vernon. “Small grains are a very important rotation crop for farmers growing tulips, vegetables and berries, so I am eager to expand my research into areas relevant to this part of Washington.”

Jones said it was the diversity and heritage of agriculture in the Skagit Valley region that attracted him to the NWREC position.

“The agricultural diversity of this area is fascinating to me,” Jones said. “Growers are facing the pressures of urbanization, yet there is a rich history of agriculture in the Skagit Valley and surrounding areas. There are also great faculty and staff at the center. They have a wonderful team in place, and I want to be a part of it.”

Jones added that he also looks forward to the outreach aspect of the position. “I ‘m looking forwarding to helping people growing plants at all levels from home gardeners to the fairly large scale operations on the west side.”

Bernardo said he will be working closely with the Department of Crop and Soil Sciences and the Washington wheat industry to discuss the future structure of WSU’s wheat breeding program. “This is an opportunity to assess the current structure of our wheat breeding program and determine how we should best organize ourselves to meet the needs of the industry,” he said.

Jones joined the WSU faculty in 1995. He first came to Pullman in 1991 to serve as a molecular cytogeneticist for the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Research Service housed at WSU. In addition to traditional winter wheat breeding, his research has focused on the development of perennial wheat – a project that has been featured in The New York Times and Gourmet Magazine. His work with organic wheat was recently covered in The Wall Street Journal. Earlier this year, he was asked to write the “wheat” entry for World Book Encyclopedia and just this summer was invited to provide the entry for “sustainable agriculture,” which he will co-author with WSU Associate Scientist and Extension Specialist Carol Miles, who is based in Mount Vernon.

Jones holds a bachelor’s degree from California State University, Chico, as well as a master’s in agronomy and a Ph.D. in genetics from University of California, Davis.