Quality wheat breeding is losing a renowned figure as Ian Foot retires from the world of flour functionality and baking at leading plant breeders Limagrain UK, where he has headed up the quality wheat programme for the last 30 years.
Whilst Ian Foot’s retirement marks the end of an era, it also marks the beginning of a new chapter, led by a passionate and skilled successor. As the torch is passed on to Ewa Lagowska, the spirit of innovation and excellence in wheat quality breeding continues to thrive at Limagrain UK.
Ian had an unconventional start to his journey in science. He didn’t like his history teacher at school, so he opted to take biology instead!
This led him to pursue biology at higher education, firstly at the Northeast Surrey College of Technology and subsequently at the West of Scotland Agricultural College, where Ian’s six-month industrial placement turned into a transformative few years at Throws Farm.
During this time, Ian not only gained valuable practical knowledge but also discovered his true calling. He returned to his studies with newfound zeal and completed a degree in agriculture, specialising in Crop Production. Armed with his newly acquired knowledge, he landed a position at Twyford Seeds, where he managed seed quality and pathology labs.
However, it was all change in the early 1990’s, when he found himself working for plant breeders Nickerson, who at that time had recently been acquired by Limagrain. Here he had the privilege of working under the mentorship of the esteemed wheat breeder, Bill Angus. Under Bill’s guidance, Ian honed his skills and became deeply involved in quality wheat breeding.
Ian took on the role of quality wheat manager, where he played a crucial role in developing quality programs that bridged the gap between end-user requirements and wheat breeding for the bread and biscuit sectors.
Working closely with wheat breeder Ron Granger, Ian spearheaded the development of the leading milling variety, Crusoe. Collaborating with the baker, Warburtons, Ian and his team had set out to find a wheat variety that could potentially replace the popular variety, Hereward. This variety had to meet Warburtons’ stringent quality requirements, including the quality of the flour, its functionality, baking performance and colour. For a variety to make a Group 1, it needs to deliver all this consistently.
The creation of Crusoe was a triumph. It not only met Warburtons’ high standards but also proved to be a resounding success in the market.
Today, more than a decade later, Crusoe remains one of the leading quality wheats, a testament to Ian’s visionary work and it has just been awarded the NIAB Variety Cup.
Ian Foot remains modest about his achievements and acknowledges the challenges of quality wheat breeding. The complexity of the task, with numerous independent variables to consider, makes it rare for a variety to tick all the boxes and endure in the competitive market.
Nevertheless, Ian’s passion for science, dedication to his craft, and commitment to improving agriculture have left a lasting impact on the industry and earned him a well-deserved place among the pioneers of quality wheat breeding.