The perennial wheat program at The Land Institute creates hybrids made from crossing annual wheat species (including bread and durum wheat) with wheatgrass species (especially intermediate wheatgrass, the species being domesticated as Kernza®). Elite lines of perennial wheat currently yield grain about 50-70% that of annual wheat cultivars. Some of our perennial wheat plants in Kansas have lived for six or more years, while exceeding six years in other locations.
The Land Institute established the perennial wheat program in 2001 with the goal of developing perennial wheat that is economically viable for farmers and replaces the global food calories of annual wheat.
In 2009, we developed our first perennial wheat line through the hybridization of bread wheat with intermediate wheatgrass and in 2010, 843 perennial hybrid plants survived the hot summer and cold winter for the first time in our field.
Many successful hybrids have been achieved between wheat and wheatgrass. They are being used to understand the genetic contribution of the annual and perennial parents. Other research partners around the world have made similar crosses between annual and perennial wheat.
In 2018, we developed five stable lines of a new type of perennial wheat which could live for years in the field. Seeds are now being propagated for worldwide evaluation. Twenty of the most promising crosses are being grown in nine different countries to see how particular genetic types vary in performance when grown under a broad range of environmental conditions.
Below are the current long-term and near-future goals of the Land Institute and our collaborators for the perennial wheat breeding program.
- Near-term, the goal is to improve perennial lines. More genetic studies on flowering time genes will provide a better understanding of which genes control perenniality. Perenniality (the ability of the plant to regrow after grain harvest and to survive harsh winters and/or summers) is also highly variable depending on environmental conditions.
- Increase grain yield through continued breeding efforts.We are partnering with researchers worldwide to develop perennial wheat. Read more about our research partners here.
- Long-term, the goal is to develop an economically viable perennial wheat variety in the next 10-20 years. Our breeding program continues to seek improvement on a number of plant traits including perenniality and yield. Although we see steady improvement every year, we expect it could take another 10-20 years to develop an economically viable perennial wheat variety.
CIMMYT Turkey Wheat Program, Yenimahalle/Ankara, Turkey
Council for Research and Experimentation in Agriculture Rome, Italy
Lethbridge Research and Development Centre Lethbridge, Canada
Max Planck Institute for Plant Breeding Research, Kőln, Germany
Namik Kemal University, Turkey
New South Wales Department of Primary Industries, Australia
Northwest A & F University, China
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences (SLU), Uppsala Campus, Sweden
Michigan State University East Lansing, Michigan
Oklahoma State University Stillwater, Oklahoma
Washington State University Pullman, Washington
Related Scientific Publications
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Two lines of common winter wheat germplasm, listed below, were developed and released by the North Carolina Agricultural Research Service and the USDA-ARS in 2006 because of their potential to broaden…
Perennial Wheat Program Videos
Learn about other perennial crops under development at The Land Institute.