MSU Hires Doug Holen as New Foundation Seed Program Manager


by Jenny Lavey, MSU News Service

BOZEMAN – Montana State University has hired Doug Holen as the new MSU Foundation Seed Program manager.

As manager, Holen will oversee the MSU Foundation Seed program, which provides foundation seed to statewide producer partners, primarily from the university’s spring and winter wheat and barley breeding programs in addition to oats, safflower, peas and lentils. The program is part of the Montana Agricultural Experiment Station (MAES) within the College of Agriculture. Holen replaces Bill Grey, who served as the Foundation Seed Program manager for 35 years.

Wheat and barley varieties are developed at MSU based on the needs of Montana growers facing climate, pest and soil challenges in the diverse agro-ecosystems of the state. The university responds with varieties specifically bred and adapted to meet these challenges, initially released as MAES varieties in the foundation stage of production. The Foundation Seed Program is an extension of MSU’s breeding programs that increases recommended varieties with assurance of genetic purity and quality standards. 

Before public varieties are sold commercially, they are grown by farmers within the Montana Seed Growers Association, who are certified growers across the state and agree to expand MAES varieties. The program requires that the certified growers follow strict regulations for contamination-free fields. MSU’s statewide research centers within MAES also grow foundation seed.

“I’m glad to be in a position that combines breeders and crop genetics, private industry, research centers and statewide producers,” said Holen. “I look at foundation seed as a form of quality assurance for our state’s growers and the Foundation Seed Program as an effective instrument that bridges the university with on-the-ground production.”

Holen has a bachelor’s degree in agronomy from the University of Minnesota and a master’s degree in plant science from MSU. For the last 16 years, he has worked as a crops educator in small grains and forages with the University of Minnesota Extension. 

Holen said any effective foundation seed program begins with dedicated and successful breeding programs.

“If you start with the right genetics and take into account pressures that growers are facing, then it’s possible to deliver a high-quality seed program in terms of purity, strong characteristics and yield,” he said. “That’s why it’s great coming to MSU, because the expertise by the scientists combined with the support and trust of growers is so strong – it’s really a team atmosphere.”

Last year, the Montana Seed Growers Association hired a new manager, Heather Rimel, who replaced Ron Larson. Additionally, Bridget Westfall is a new manager of the Montana State Seed Lab, where farmers across the state can send seeds for tests, inspection and diagnostics.

USDA statistics show that Montana planted 5.8 million acres of wheat last year, with 2.2 million acres of spring and winter wheat varieties developed by MAES. MSU wheat varieties accounted for approximately $500 million of $1.2 billion in wheat sold by Montana farmers in 2015, according to MSU wheat breeding specialists. Private companies also sell some wheat varieties developed by MSU.

According to the USDA, Montana is the fourth-highest state for total planted wheat in the country, fifth in the nation for winter wheat production and the second-largest spring wheat producer in the country.

For more information on the MSU Foundation Seed Program, visit or call 994-5687. 

Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Would love your thoughts, please comment.x