Breeding Perennial Grain and Nut Crops at the University of Minnesota

BREEDING PERENNIAL SUNFLOWERS: Mikey Kantar, Kevin Betts, Brent Hulke, Robert Stupar, and Don Wyse 

Objective: Develop a perennial oil seed sunflower
Three annual inbred H. annuus lines and 18 H. tuberosus wild collections were crossed creating 43 F1 families. The F1 families were evaluated based on general phenotypic characteristics, genome size, seed size, flower size, tuber number, tuber size, flower number, plant architecture traits, and invasive potential. Markers are currently being developed to make more rapid selections associated with traits of interest. Flow cytometry is being used to determine genome size and to distinguish hybrids (4X) from intermated H. tuberosus (6X).

Phenotypic observations: Approximately 70% of IM1F1 individuals form tubers and show perenniality in the field; tubers in IM1F1 appear longer than F1 or H. tuberosus. Seed size in IM1F1 is approaching the same size as H. annuus and appears larger than H. tuberosis or the F1. Head size in IM1F1 is larger than the F1 or H. tuberosus, but is still approximately 1/5 to 1/6 the size of annual sunflower.

BREEDING PERENNIAL MAIZE: Kevin Betts, Mikey Kantar, Don Wyse and Larry Carlson

The perennial maize program is in the early stages of development at the University of Minnesota. Two approaches will be explored in 2011.
1. Crosses developed by Larry Carlson between Zea diploperennis and Zea Maize are being assessed for perenniality and basic agronomic characteristics.
2. Crosses will be made between gamagrass with Zea maize. Gamagrass (Tripsacum dactyloides) accessions will first be evaluated for ploidy using flow cytometry. Diploid accessions will be used in crossing develop hybrids.

BREEDING PERENNIAL INTERMEDIATE WHEAT GRAIN: Jim Anderson, Don Wyse, Kevin Betts, Nancy Ehlke, Don Velekson, Craig Sheaffer, David Mulla, William Lazarus, Mirko Bunzel, DevinPeterson, Baraem Ismail, Tonya Schoenfuss, and Lee DeHaan

Goal: Increase grain size, biomass, and improve quality to obtain a commercial variety within 10 years

Specific objectives:
• Increase IWG grain yield and seed size by 15% per year through plant breeding and genetics; genomic regions associated with agronomic traits will be identified using DNA markers
• Characterize advanced breeding lines for flavor and functional qualities to support the development of IWG as a food crop; assess flour functionality, nutritional components, dual food and fuel crop, and evaluate for use in grain based products and flavor
• Obtain improved populations with 15% greater biomass yield
• Determine carbon sequestration, nitrate leaching, water use, and water run-off
• Use economic modeling to evaluate progress toward the economic competitiveness goal and to determine future research priorities, including development of crop enterprise budgets and model crop rotations

WHEAT-WHEATGRASS HYBRID BREEDING: Kathryn Turner, Jim Anderson, Yue Jin, Bob Stupar, Lee DeHaan

Project objectives:
• Identify disease resistance in Thinopyrum species for future wheat improvement for stem rust and Fusarium head blight (FHB)
• Characterize agronomic and genomic traits in perennial wheat hybrid lines for the improvement of perennial germplasm, including perenniality and disease incidence in the fieldFifty-three families from 17 hybrid wheat-wheatgrass lines from crosses of T. aestivum with Th. Intermedium (Intermediate wheatgrass), Th. junceum, T. carthlicum, and T. turgidum were developed at the Land Institute. Families were screened with stem rust and FHB and were planted in field plots in 2009. Based on preliminary results, many hybrids have high levels of resistance to both African and local
races of stem rust, as well as FHB. There are a few of the hybrid lines that may offer a source of novel resistance, which could be used in wheat improvement. Further screening with additional markers for Sr43 and Sr44, and known FHB resistance on chromosome 7e to further indicate potentially novel resistance. Disappointingly, only 2 of 55 lines showed perenniality under Minnesota conditions. These
two lines will continue to be monitored in the field and clonally propagated to other locations to assess their performance.


Goal: Increase seed size, improve wintering ability, and select for ability to produce 2 crops per year. This project began in 2001 with observation blocks of wild perennial flax from the USDA-GRIN system and Black Hills State University in South Dakota. The germplasm included two winter hardy genomic groups, x=9 (self-incompatible) and x=15 (largely self-pollinated). Hybridization began in 2004 within and between these groups. The hybrids developed produced viable seed and were winter hardy, but did not show improvement for seed size. Currently, germplasm is being re-evaluated to include a range of dormancy requirements to gain variation for larger seed size.


Goal: to develop a winter annual oil seed cover crop which will provide fall and spring soil cover and weed suppression in a no-till soybean system. Accessions were collected throughout MN in 2007 and were evaluated for early maturity, high oil
content, and low branching. Approximately 50 selected lines will be crossed in the fall of 2011.

PERENNIAL HAZELNUT BREEDING: Lois Braun and Don Wyse and collaborators at UWI (Brent McCown, Mike Demchik, Jason Fischach), Northland College (Tony Kern), and UMO (Larry Godsey).

Goal: To develop native and native-European hybrid hazelnut for the upper Midwest for as a nutritious human food, biofuel, and for ecosystem services
• Improve the crop characteristics of American and hybrid hazelnuts by developing low-cost commercially appropriate propagation techniques including root layering, cuttings, and micropropagation
• Develop best-management practices for integrated production systems for weed control, N fertilizer, and pruning/coppicing
• Develop enterprise budgets in conjunction with the BMP trials
• Increase grower knowledge of bush-type hazelnut production. The hazelnut improvement program began in 2006 with collections from farms throughout MN, WI, and IA. Since 2008, selections have been made on approximately 100 genotypes in 5 locations. Selected traits include total kernel yield and kernel size, excluding individuals with undesirable nut quality, including shells that are hard to crack, poor husking, and off-flavor. Currently, clonal material is being increased for propagation and weed control studies. Best management practice trials will be conducted on seedling material as it is developed.

OTHER PERENNIAL INITIATIVES at the University of Minnesota:
• Illinois Bundleflower: collections for winter hardiness and working to improve flavor
• Native perennials for use as antimicrobials

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