Taming the Wild for Market: Scientific Agriculture of Wild Rice, 1959~1985
Wild rice (Zizania aquatic and Zizania Palustrus) has been widely harvested in North America, especially by Ojibwa and Chippewa tribes in Minnesota and Wisconsin. Wild rice is grown in lake, so Native Indians have harvested wild rice manually on the canoe. Since the late 1950s, trials for systematic commercialization of wild rice resulted in adaptation of breeding technology to improve the productivity of wild rice. Erwin R. Brook, professor at the Institute of Agriculture of University of Minnesota, argued that “unimproved wild rice” should be improved as a commercial crop by making it to be planted in paddies rather than in lake. Moreover, he insisted that systematic development of the processing of wild rice is essential for the commercialization to enhance the yield efficiency of the production.  Simultaneously, University of Minnesota agronomist, Algot Johnson discovered several new types of wild rice, which was non-scattering and paddy-grown type, with breeding trials, and initiated the breeding research of wild rice. In 1972, University of Minnesota began the wild rice breeding program, and opened the Minnesota Paddy Wild Rice Research and Promotion Council. University of Minnesota was not the only research institute, which was interested in wild rice research. University of Wisconsin’s Department of Food Science and Agronomy began the research for the scientific agriculture of wild rice partly supported by the Upper Great Lakes Regional Commission and Chief Industries, Inc., Hayward, Wisconsin in 1968. The research report was published as a ‘handbook’ for wild rice processors, with detailed experimental data on fermentation, parching, drying, hulling, and winnowing process of wild rice.
The prime motivation for researches was the market value of wild rice. University of Wisconsin’s research team wrote “even the most conservative estimates point to a bright future for the wild rice industry. (…) The high price for rice presently makes it a luxury food item for many customers.” As a result of systematic development of wild rice, cultivated wild rice dominated the market, and the market share of uncultivated lake-grown wild rice began to be decreased drastically.
Figure 1. Wild Rice Production, 1968-1984
As total production was increased, the price per pound was exacerbated. From 1968 to 1984, total production of wild rice was increased from 0.69 million pounds to 6.69 million pounds, whereas wholesale price per pound was only slightly changed from $ 3.27 to $ 3.30. In sum, mass production and mass consumption mechanism of wild rice was enabled by food and agricultural scientists from universities, and was resulted in an asymmetric distribution of the benefit – huge advantage for large-scale farmers and food industry with ‘tamed’ wild rice, compare to relative alienation of Native Indian’s lake-grown wild rice from the market.
This research is a historical case study of scientific research of wild rice agriculture by two universities – University of Wisconsin and University of Minnesota. These two universities share the similarity in a sense that both were founded as a land-granted university to serve state residents. Considering the fact that majority of economic structure of both states have been relied on agriculture and dairy products, the case of wild rice research by these two universities highlights their role as a public university.
By shedding light on the wild rice story, this research attempts to widen the current discussion on Mode 2 knowledge. According to Gibbon et al, “Mode 2 knowledge is created in broader, transcisciplinary social and economic contexts.” In other words, from the beginning, knowledge production in Mode 2 regime is responsible for the needs of various social actors, so that shapes the knowledge by diverse intellectual and social demands. In words of Hessels and Lente, Mode 2 knowledge has the characteristics of heterogeneity, reflexivity, and social accountability, whereas traditional Mode 1 regime is categorized by homogeneity and autonomy.
Even though Mode 2 framework captures the important aspect of modern research system, many scholars have criticized that such framework lacks the empirical evidence. (detail references) Thus, Mode 2 framework is better to be understood as a general prediction on tendency rather than normative framework about the past and future of university.
Indeed, constructive question is “how much knowledge production system has been heterogeneous, reflexive, and socially accountable?” rather than asking whether the Mode 2 framework is empirically warranted or not. Multiple components of Mode 2 theory should be used as meaningful perspectives to analyze the knowledge production system, not merely to falsify the framework per se. In this context, this research aims to shed light on an asymmetric power structure that initiates and utilizes the research program. What is lacking in Mode 2 framework is the micro level analysis on how the specific research agenda is shaped under which context of various actors with asymmetric interests and powers, and the implications of possible consequences of it.
I will argue that even the needs for research program is not always inherent in university scholars in Mode 2 framework, the specific structure of needs by the various actors represents the actual power asymmetry among the different social entities, such as farmers, manufacturers, industries, and local minorities. Moreover, not only the motivation of the research, but also the utilization of the knowledge is in line with uneven power structure, which results in asymmetric distribution of outcomes.
1. Minnesota Paddy Wild Rice Research and Promotion Council and development of paddy-grown wild rice: Breeding technology and needs of food industry
2. Standardization and quantification for wild ricers: processing wild rice for market
3. Asymmetric consequences
Note - Things to think: (puzzles)
1) How to show the asymmetric structure of needs? How can I effectively reveal the story that strong needs of manufacturers overshadowed the needs of Native Indian community? How dynamically?
2) Not intending to describe university as a research factory, which performs the D to P. How to avoid such trap?
3) About science: Standardization and quantification – inherent characteristics of science, and its inevitably close relationship with market mechanism: how can I incorporate this story to urge the needs of inclusive meaning of knowledge?
- Different kinds of scientific knowledge for Native Indian communities? (science for quality control and storage vs. science for large scale farming and manufacturing)
4) Academic capitalism – asymmetric geography of power structure
5) Consequence – How can I use the story of industry’s use of word ‘wild’ as rhetoric in my story?
6) However, I am not trying to romanticize the Native Indian’s wild rice!
7) Do I have to find the interaction between Minnesota and Wisconsin as well?
 Erwin R. Brooks, A Survey of the Current and Potential Wild Rice Production, Process, and Marketing on the White Earth, Nett Lake, and Red Lake Indian Reservations in Minnesota, and the Mole Lake and Bad River Indian Reservation in Wisconsin, Department of Agronomy and Plant Genetics, Institute of Agriculture, University of Minnesota, 1964, p. 5~14
 Claude E. Titus, “Wild Rice: Delicious, Nutritious, Aquatic Grass”, The Minnesota Volunteer, September-October 1985, p. 13
 Wild Rice Processors’ Handbook, Department of Food Science and Agronomy, University of Wisconsin – Extension, 1972
 Ibid, p.90
 Ronald N. Nelson and Reynold P. Dahl, “Wild Rice Market Shows Vigorous Growth”, Minnesota Agricultural Economist, September 1985, p. 1
 Michael Gibbons et al, The New Production of Knowledge: The Dynamics of Science and Research in Contemporary Societies (Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, 1994), p. 1
 Laurens K. Hessels and Harro van Lente, "Re-thinking new knowledge production: A literature review and a research agenda," Research Policy 37 (2008), pp. 740-760