Take it from a guy who helps feed the world: There's nothing quite like surveying a field comprising a healthy new crop breed your research team helped create and recalling, years earlier, "when you held all the seed of it in the palm of your hand."

P. Stephen Baenziger, University of Nebraska-Lincoln small grains breeder, brought his passion about his work to a talk titled "Setting the Stage: Why Agriculture?" Baenziger was the second speaker in the Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources' Heuermann Lecture series, which focuses on meeting the world's growing food and renewable energy needs while sustaining natural resources and the rural communities in which food grows.

Developing wheat breeds

Baenziger has been on the front lines of that work his entire career, including 25 years at UNL. He inherited and built on a grains-breeding program that has produced wheat breeds now planted on 66 percent of Nebraska wheat acres, as well as in nearby states. He emphasized, as he has throughout his UNL career, that this work is achieved by a skilled team.

 While that success has helped boost income for Nebraska producers — by about $71 million a year, he estimates — Baenziger is even prouder of the fact that UNL's improvements to wheat are responsible for feeding about 2.7 million people a year.