SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (AP) - The maker of Cheerios cereal, Nature Valley bars and Yoplait yogurt has chosen South Dakota State University as its partner in an effort to improve the quality of oats and make the crop more sustainable.

The partnership between Minneapolis-based General Mills and the university in Brookings comes in the form of a research laboratory that will focus in oats - a grain found in more than a quarter of the food giant's products.

The company's scientists are expected to work with the university's plant breeders, grain, environmental and seed experts, student researchers and others.

Jim Kirkwood is vice president and chief science and technology development officer at General Mills. He says oats are "an absolutely essential part" of the company's portfolio, and SDSU is a leader in oats breeding.