Traits for perennial wheat adaptation in Australia

Author: Len J. Wade
 November 2010
Abstract: Interest is increasing worldwide in developing perennial crops to improve sustainability of mixed-farming systems. Perennial wheat has prospects in Australia to contribute to both grazing and grain production, especially by providing timely autumn grazing to relieve pressure on other forages. Amphiploids from crosses between various wheats and perennial grasses have been imported into Australia for initial evaluation, and crosses between adapted Australian wheats and Australian native perennial grasses are proposed. Initial efforts have demonstrated that some imported amphiploids have a capacity to perenniate in the field with adequate water, but questions remain concerning appropriate phenology for a perennial wheat ideotype, and its capacity to tolerate the extremes of the Australian environment, especially the hot dry summer conditions encountered in southern Australia. This paper reviews trait requirements for successful perenniation, growth and performance of perennial wheat in contrasting environments, from north America to Australia, but especially from northern Australia (summer-dominant rainfall, heavy-textured soils) and south-western Australia (winter-dominant rainfall, light-textured soils), to south-eastern Australia (with a little summer rain and deep soils, but the likelihood of very hot-dry summers overall). The review concludes that appropriate phenology and summer dormancy will be desirable to escape exposure to summer drought, with avoidance and tolerance traits assisting plant performance and perenniation in different zones.


Crop and Pasture Science 61(9) 679–690

Evaluation of perennial wheat germplasm in an Australian environment

Author: Matthew Newell, Philip Larkin, Richard Hayes and Mark Norton
Date: November 2010
Abstract:  There is interest in developing cereal plants with a perennial habit because of potential advantages in production stability and environmental sustainability. Breeding programs in the northern hemisphere have produced perennial wheats by crossing annual bread wheat lines (Triticum aestivum) with perennial wheatgrasses (Thinopyrum spp.). This study evaluated the performance of 67 of these hybrid derivatives in Australia compared to the annual winter wheat cv. EGA Wedgetail. The experiment was conducted at Cowra in the mixed cropping zone of NSW. All hybrid derivatives were significantly later in their maturity than cv. EGA Wedgetail (mean 123 days after sowing to flowering)(> 0.05), with 18 of the imported lines yielding as well or better than the control (mean 136.7 g/m row). Most lines containing Th. intermedium or Th. ponticum in their pedigree were highly resistant to wheat streak mosaic virus and most proved very resistant to stripe and leaf rust. Good resistance to current Australian races of stem rust was rare within the germplasm. Nine entries regrew and produced grain in the second season. These lines tended to be lower yielding in the first year. Although potential exists, ongoing research is required to strengthen perenniality, ensuring survival through the harsh Australian summers and guaranteeing adequate grain yields. Significantly, this germplasm is proving a rich resource of disease resistance.