Michigan State works to advance perennial wheat

Michigan State – with the $1 million grant that it has recently won is joining the well-know Washington State University and The Land Institute to create a line perennial grains. Success at Michigan State and these other institutions has been resonating with farmers to save them time, money and resources. 

Author: James Prichard, Associate Press
Date: September 2009

As Steve Culman squatted in the southwestern Michigan farm field, he used his left hand to gently clasp several dead wheat stalks still in the ground, then pointed with his right toward something remarkable near the bottom of them.

There were new sprouts of wheat, emerging shortly after the summer harvest.

Culman is a researcher at Michigan State University, which recently won a four-year $1 million grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to further the development of a new type of wheat that would help reduce soil erosion while saving growers money, time and labor.

Read the full story here. 

Perennial wheat: the next frontier

Author: Dr. Gio Braidotti
 January 2011
Affiliation: GRDC
Abstract: The idea that cereals such as bread wheat, rice and sorghum can be transformed from high-input annuals to more resilient perennial plants has obvious appeal. Here, in theory, would be a crop that could be harvested over several seasons, while also providing biomass for forage and environmental services, such as protection from wind erosion and dryland salinity.
Source: http://www.grdc.com.au/Media-Centre/Ground-Cover-Supplements/Ground-Cover-Issue-91-Capacity-Building-supplement/Perennial-wheat-the-next-frontier

Increased Food and Ecosystem Security via Perennial Grains

Author: Jerry D. Glover et al
Source: Science 25 June 2010: Vol. 328 no. 5986 pp. 1638-1639

“Perennial grains hold promise, especially for marginal landscapes or with limited resources where annual versions struggle.”

Click here to read Summary

Click here to Full Text


This American Land, episode 108

Check out this YouTube Video from the “This American Land” channel that talks about perennial crops and their implications. Thanks to Jerry Glover for sharing this link. The portion on perennial grains begins at 6:45, and goes until 12:02.

Link: www.youtube.com/watchv=_Fc2rvaMHh8&list=UUFrajUTrVVLHNj5ljlLXcpQ&index=9&feature=plcp

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

Progress in Breeding Perennial Grains

Author: T.S. Cox, D.L. Van Tassel, C.M. Cox, and L.R. DeHaan
Date: July 2010
Affiliation: The Land Institute
Abstract: Annual cereal, legume and oilseed crops remain staples of the global food supply. Because most annual crops have less extensive, shorter-lived root systems than do perennial species, with a correspondingly lower capacity to manage nutrients and water, annual cropping systems tend to suffer higher levels of soil erosion and generate greater water contamination than do perennial systems. In an effort to reduce soil degradation and water contamination simultaneously – something that neither no-till nor organic cropping alone can accomplish – researchers in the United States, Australia, and other countries have begun breeding perennial counterparts of annual grain and legume crops. Initial cycles of hybridization, propagation and selection in wheat, wheatgrasses, sorghum, sunflower and Illinois bundleflower have produced perennial progenies with phenotypes intermediate between wild and cultivated species, along with improved grain production. Further breeding cycles will be required to develop agronomically adapted perennial crops with high grain yields.
Source:  http://www.landinstitute.org/vnews/display.v/ART/2011/04/22/4db199966cf1a