US research could yield perennial grain crops in future

Perennial grain crops could be step closer following the success of US researchers who have bred plants with the properties of wheat and the regrowth capabilities of grass.

Work conducted by Washington State University has led to the breeding of a “Salish Blue” variety which can yield crops for season after season without replanting.

This project to stabilise a plant with the properties of wheat and grass has been under way for 21 years, says Colin Curwen-Adams, graduate research assistant at the university’s Bread Laboratory.

See also: Researchers to grow and harvest crop using only robots

It is incredibly difficult to combine the two without introducing undesirable qualities, he explains, and current plants bear little resemblance to modern wheat varieties, coming in at between 1.5-2m in height at maturity with blue seeds.

Slashing cultivation costs may not be the only benefit of this research programme.

“What we need right now are crops that hold the soil, add organic matter and use moisture and nutrients more efficiently. That’s the goal of this breeding programme,” he adds.

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