Perennial Wheat Feasibility Study
The Perennial Wheat Feasibility project assessed the feasibility of developing perennial wheat for Australia.
Perennial wheat lines from Washington State University and The Land Institute (Kansas) were grown in the field in Cowra and Woodstock, New South Wales, together with various stable wheat/wheatgrass amphiploid hybrids from around the world. Some of these wheats were able to successfully yield grain for three consecutive years, effectively proving the concept of perennial wheat, particularly in the long season (high rainfall zone) temperate climates. Much of the germplasm also showed broad disease resistance.
Perennial wheat is created by crossing traditional annual wheat varieties with perennial grasses. An analysis of chromosome composition indicated that perenniality depends on the presence of many chromosomes from the wheatgrass species and this greatly influenced the design of new breeding strategies. The most successful perennial wheats developed so far have a full extra genome from the perennial parent, so they have 56 chromosomes, compared to the 42 chromosomes of conventional annual wheat. However, research indicated that having 56 chromosomes provided no guarantee the germplasm would perenniate. However, the incidence of perenniality was dramatically reduced if all 56 chromosomes were not present.
The development of perennial wheat could have many advantages for future farming in Australia. A larger root biomass and deeper root systems will enable a greater use of soil water and minimise nutrient leaching while reducing soil erosion, weeds, and the need for agrochemical and energy inputs. In addition, it could take advantage of out-of-season rainfall to provide valuable forage, grain and environmental benefits such as more carbon sequestration to the soil.
Charles Sturt University, NSW Department of Primary Industries and CSIRO are continuing to assess opportunities to develop perennial wheat.
Professor Len Wade, Charles Sturt University
Richard Hayes, NSW DPI
Professor Philip Larkin, CSIRO Plant Industry
This website contains information about the CRC’s research into perennial plant based farming systems.
This site will remain live until 30 June 2017 but is no longer being updated or reviewed.
Further information about CRC research projects can be obtained by following links from relevant project pages or by viewing the research transfer page.
The CRC was funded for seven years (2007-2014) under the Australian Government Cooperative Research Centre program.