2002 - Volume #26, Issue #3, Page #27[ Sample Stories From This Issue | List of All Stories In This Issue | Print this story | Read this issue]
Researchers Still Working On Perennial WheatIt's been a few years since FARM SHOW first told you about efforts in Quebec and Oregon to develop varieties of perennial wheat (Vol. 19, No. 2 & 4) but researchers are still hopeful of success.
The researchers we interviewed then were Jean-Pierre Dubuc, at Canada's Soils and Crops Research Centre in Sainte-Foy, near Quebec City, and Tim Peters, a private plant breeder and owner of a small seed company in Myrtle Creek, Ore.
Dubuc retired about four years ago and passed the project on to Andre Comeau, who reports that the work has been shelved for a couple of years now, due to budget cuts.
Comeau was encouraged by the recent success of Surya Acharya, a colleague in Alberta who developed a perennial rye. He's attempting to find a funding source to put perennial wheat back into active research.
Dubuc's approach was to cross a wheat species with quackgrass. Yields of the resulting perennial lines were only about 1/3 that of annual varieties yet growers might net the same per acre, with most of the savings coming in annual seeding and soil preparation costs.
Peters, too, has been limited in funds for his research. "I've sold some seed of the first variety I developed," he says, but "I shifted the focus to a new variety, 3625, which has more winter hardiness and tends to revert back to a non-heading state better than the first variety."
Both Jefferson and 3625 are the result of crossing annual wheat with some perennial wild wheat relatives.
"In the first couple of years, yields are good enough to give growers a net return maybe half that from an annual wheat, but then it begins to thin out dramatically. Generally, the clumps get larger and the number of heads per clump increases, but the number of clumps declines and yields drop off," Peters says.
Although yields drop off, Peters says ground cover remains fairly consistent, so even an older stand of perennial wheat provides good soil erosion control.
Based on selections he's made recently, Peters figures he's about 12 years away from a successful perennial wheat. Comeau, on the other hand, can't say when or even if the Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada project might bear fruit, since no funding source currently exists for the project. He'd like to discuss the issue with wheat growers' organizations and soil conservation groups, among others.
Peters says he could make a small quantity of both Jefferson and 3625 seed available, on a research only basis. "We can sell 1-oz. packets, if people are willing to do their own increases," he says.
Contact: FARM SHOW Followup, Tim Peters, Peters Seed and Research, Box 1472, Myrtle Creek, Ore. 97457 (ph 541 874-2615; E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org); or Andre Comeau, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada's Soils and Crops Research and Development Centre, 2560 Hochelaga Boul., Sainte-Foy, Quebec G1V 2J3 Canada (ph 418-657-7980; E-mail: comeaua@em. agr.ca).
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