Management of Perennial Wheat as a Sustainable Alternative Cropping System in the Pacific Northwest

Final Report for SW01-039

Project Type: Research and Education
Funds awarded in 2001: $63,641.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2003
Matching Non-Federal Funds: $6,365.00
Region: Western
State: Washington
Principal Investigator:
Stephen Jones
Crop and Soil Science Dept. WSU
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Project Information

Abstract:

Eighty-four accessions of perennial relatives of wheat were evaluated for adaptive traits such as winter survival, drought resistance, and disease resistance in high and low rainfall zones of the Pacific Northwest (PNW). Crosses were made between the most promising accessions and elite PNW cultivars. These new hybrids are now being used to develop populations for bulk selection strategies. Newly created hybrids are also being used in crosses with current perennial lines to more rapidly achieve the chromosomal stability required for full fertility. Backcrosses will proceed using both the wild perennial and current perennial wheat lines as recurrent parents.

Project Objectives:

The overall goal of this research is to make perennial wheat a viable part of small grains cropping systems, especially in areas where soil erosion potential is high and/or where CRP is now used. Our main objective is to provide growers with basic management information for integrating perennial wheat into their cropping systems, as some advanced lines will be proceeding to the variety release stage in the foreseeable future. Other objectives are designed to increase the genetic diversity used in our program to form the basis of the next generation of perennial wheat varieties. Our specific objectives are:

Objective 1:
To determine best management practices of perennial wheat lines for minimizing soil loss and maximizing yield.

Objective 2:
To evaluate the economic feasibility of perennial cropping systems, based on yield, straw usage, and market class.

Objective 3:
To evaluate the agronomic potential of accessions from the perennial Triticeae genera Thinopyrum, Dasypyrum, Leymus, and Agropyron.

Objective 4:
To disseminate germplasm and information regarding best management practices to wheat producers on marginal lands in Washington State and to release germplasm to other breeding programs worldwide.

We are working with farmers to evaluate accessions of perennial relatives of wheat in the field for adaptive traits such as winter survival, drought resistance, and disease resistance in high and low rainfall zones of the PNW. These lines have been evaluated for potentially useful agronomic traits as well, including flowering time and synchronous maturity. Crosses between the most promising accessions and elite PNW cultivars have been made. A primary objective of this grant was to continue to work with these new hybrids to develop populations for bulk selection strategies. Newly created hybrids are being subjected to regimes of cholchicine treatment to encourage chromosome doubling and will also be used in crosses with current perennial lines in order to more rapidly achieve the chromosomal stability required for full fertility. Backcrosses will proceed using both the wild perennial and current perennial wheat lines as recurrent parents. We are testing the hypothesis that use of the wild species as a recurrent female parent will ultimately result in a higher proportion of chromatin from the perennial parent in stabilized lines, which may result in dramatic increases in persistence and drought tolerance.
We have established several basic agronomic principles leading to improved stand establishment to maximize stand persistence involving sowing time, seeding rate, and weed control. Our second major goal is to further refine best management practices to optimize yield, persistence, and weed control in perennial wheat stands by manipulating fertility application and chemical weed control regimes. The development of this knowledge will be critical for the successful integration of perennial wheat into small grain cropping systems in the PNW and for developing realistic economic evaluations of perennial wheat in a producer’s crop rotation scheme. We will rely heavily on the experience of our producer collaborators for direction in establishing appropriate sowing, fertility, and weed management regimes for the rainfall zones represented by their land. These manipulations will utilize both our most promising current perennial lines, bulk populations developed with the support of WSARE: USDA/ CSREES program (Grant #SW01-039), and the newly created hybrids described above.

Introduction:

The pervasiveness of soil erosion associated with conventional farming practices and the threat that soil degradation poses to the long-term sustainability of American agriculture are well known. Soil with a constant cover of plant material is much less prone to erosive forces. Two main strategies are currently being employed to gain the erosion control benefits of constant plant cover: 1) growers are experimenting with no-till and other conservation tillage systems, and 2) the federal government has established the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP). We are developing a third strategy to utilize plant cover for erosion control: the use of perennial cultivars of wheat as an alternative cropping system. We envision perennial wheat as an important new tool for soil conservation that will function as a complementary strategy with conservation tillage and CRP. With grant support from the Fund for Rural America (Grant # 97-36200-5183) and the WSARE: USDA/ CSREES program (Grant # SW01-039), we have produced over 5,000 lines of perennial wheat from crosses between the most highly adapted annual wheats grown in the Pacific Northwest (PNW), and perennial wheatgrasses from the genus Thinopyrum, a genus whose members are closely related to wheat. Our perennial wheat lines have been tested in the field for the past eight years by farmers with perennial wheat nurseries on their land.
Perennial wheat offers many potential advantages over other cropping system approaches to the sustainable production of small grains on highly erodable land. By retaining constant groundcover over multiple years, wind and water erosion can be dramatically curtailed. Perennial wheat offers the potential for wildlife habitat, for the efficient use of available water resources, the provision of a potent carbon sink, and the potential to integrate straw retrieval and management into small grain cropping systems. Perennial wheat will provide an excellent buffer crop along watercourses to prevent runoff of sediment and agricultural chemicals (Washington State Dept. of Ecology grant # FP04007). Substantial reductions in production cost should be realized through the requirement for fewer field operations compared with annual cropping systems. We have been working on developing perennial wheat for over nine years. The second three-year phase of our perennial program was funded through a grant from the Fund for Rural America, aimed at developing perennial germplasm adapted for production in the PNW. Our perennial program now includes over 5,000 lines, some advanced as many as eleven generations (BC2F6). We have used wheatgrasses (Thinopyrum species) as the main source of perennial growth habit in wheat (38). These species were chosen because of their wide adaptability, survivability, ease of crossing, disease resistance, yield potential, and threshability (10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 33). We have made several hundred crosses over the past nine years between Thinopyrum, Thinopyrum – wheat amphiploids, and the most widely grown hexaploid winter wheats in the Pacific Northwest (32). It is important to note that all hybridizations are done naturally. No GMO techniques are involved. The most advanced lines have been evaluated over a five-year period at three test plot locations in Washington State. The test plot locations, Washington State University Spillman Farm (Pullman, WA), Moore Ranch (Kahlotus, WA), and Schoesler Ranch, (Ritzville, WA), represent three distinct agronomic regions in low and intermediate rainfall areas. The primary selection criterion to date has been survivability.
One of the main objectives of our Fund for Rural America Grant was to determine the most significant disease pressures within perennial plots and the resistance/susceptibility of our perennial lines. Disease pressures were presumed to be one of the biggest obstacles to the successful establishment of perennial wheat because of the constant source of host tissue for pathogen populations in this cropping system. An extensive screening process for disease resistance and susceptibility of the amphiploids that have acted as parents for many of our advanced lines has been completed using both field evaluation and laboratory testing. This work, which resulted in an M.S. Thesis (5), focused on eyespot, Cephalosporium stripe, and wheat streak mosaic virus. These are the main pathogens of concerns in the low to intermediate rainfall areas where we envision an important agronomic role for perennial wheats. As expected (6, 7, 8) the Thinopyrum parents of these amphiploids provided significant resistance to each of these diseases (5, 9, 31). Based on field observation, many of our advanced lines have retained these resistances through the breeding process.
Perennial grain, and wheat in particular, is not a new idea. Russian scientists established large perennial wheat breeding programs, starting in the 1920s (15, 16). In the U.S., W.J. Sando produced hundreds of wheat X Thinopyrum progeny from 1923 to 1935, many of which were perennials (17). Suneson and Pope (14, 36) bred wheats specifically for perennial habit and found types that yielded to within 70% of the best commercial wheats of their time. They also identified types with resistance to stripe, leaf, and stem rusts and several of the root rots. Early efforts in developing perennial wheat were not aimed at curtailing erosion, but rather as a way to save the costs of annual planting with the main emphasis on high yield. More recent efforts, though, have been directed at the soil conservation benefits of perennial wheats (18). Schultz-Schaeffer and Haller (19) released a perennial wheat germplasm line derived from the Sando crosses that has excellent survivability but small seed size. Attempts have also been made to establish Thinopyrum intermedium, a common source of perennial habit in wheat, as a crop. Wagoner (20, 21) identified large differences in several desirable traits such as end-use quality, yield, and drought tolerance in accessions of Th. intermedium. All of the yield and quality characteristics, however, were below a wheat “threshold.”
Why have past attempts at perennial wheat development failed to produce varieties that are grown on a large commercial scale? Past researchers have found that yields were below that of annual wheat, that survivability (stand density) decreased over time, and that perennial lines failed to achieve sufficiently high end-use quality for use as a bread wheat. We believe that none of these problems are insurmountable for the following reasons:
1) Yield must be viewed in relation to the input costs and the environmental degradation associated with crop production. Acceptable yield is therefore a site-specific determination, the answer being dependent on the erosion potential of the land. Do we compare high production yield vs. perennial yield, or zero yield (erosion gullies or no stand) vs. perennial yield? Or, do we compare overall low or variable yield potential of annuals in marginal dry land areas vs. the sustained yield of perennials? Perennial wheat will also be used as a watershed buffer, as a border crop, and as a strip crop, uses for which yield is not a primary consideration.
2) The choice of the perennial and the annual wheat parents used in previous programs was never optimized. We have been working with the most advanced and adapted wheat cultivars in the Pacific Northwest as wheat parents, and are continuing to screen perennial accessions from four genera for agronomic potential in terms of yield, disease resistance, phenology, maturity characteristics, grain quality, and survivability.
3) We believe that hard red wheat is an inappropriate goal for initial development of commercially viable perennial wheats. In general, previous attempts to develop perennial wheat were based on a goal of producing a hard red wheat. Hard red wheat has very strict end-use quality characteristics such as a strong dough. Soft white wheat has much less strict requirements for end-use quality and, in general, requires a weak dough, which is much easier to breed for than hard wheat quality (22, 23). Therefore we are focusing our breeding efforts on production of perennial lines with acceptable soft white end-use quality, which is the most important market class in the PNW.
4) There has been little basic work done in the past to determine best management practices for perennial wheat. We believe that manipulation of sowing density, fertility management, and planting time has tremendous potential to improve stand persistence and, ultimately, productivity.
An additional advantage of perennial wheat is the potential to help meet the growing demand for wheat byproducts and, specifically, straw. Currently there is a shortage of marketable straw in the PNW (24, 25). This situation will only get worse because the demand for straw is projected to increase as a result of the many new and nontraditional uses being proposed such as fiberboard and paper production (25, 26). One potential danger is that the farmers will be tempted to sell straw from annual crops instead of leaving it on the soil, which could result in even more severe erosion. A healthy stand of perennial wheat however, should produce straw in such quantities that some could be removed each season with little fear of erosion because the soil remains undisturbed.

The overall goal of this research is to make perennial wheat a viable part of small grains cropping systems, especially in areas where soil erosion potential is high and/or where CRP is now used. Our main objective is to provide growers with basic management information for integrating perennial wheat into their cropping systems, as some advanced lines will be proceeding to the variety release stage in the foreseeable future. Other objectives are designed to increase the genetic diversity used in our program to form the basis of the next generation of perennial wheat varieties. Our specific objectives are:

Objective 1:
To determine best management practices of perennial wheat lines for minimizing soil loss and maximizing yield.

Objective 2:
To evaluate the economic feasibility of perennial cropping systems, based on yield, straw usage, and market class.

Objective 3:
To evaluate the agronomic potential of accessions from the perennial Triticeae genera Thinopyrum, Dasypyrum, Leymus, and Agropyron.

Objective 4:
To disseminate germplasm and information regarding best management practices to wheat producers on marginal lands in Washington State and to release germplasm to other breeding programs worldwide.

We are working with farmers to evaluate accessions of perennial relatives of wheat in the field for adaptive traits such as winter survival, drought resistance, and disease resistance in high and low rainfall zones of the PNW. These lines have been evaluated for potentially useful agronomic traits as well, including flowering time and synchronous maturity. Crosses between the most promising accessions and elite PNW cultivars have been made. A primary objective of this grant was to continue to work with these new hybrids to develop populations for bulk selection strategies. Newly created hybrids are being subjected to regimes of cholchicine treatment to encourage chromosome doubling and will also be used in crosses with current perennial lines in order to more rapidly achieve the chromosomal stability required for full fertility. Backcrosses will proceed using both the wild perennial and current perennial wheat lines as recurrent parents. We are testing the hypothesis that use of the wild species as a recurrent female parent will ultimately result in a higher proportion of chromatin from the perennial parent in stabilized lines, which may result in dramatic increases in persistence and drought tolerance.
We have established several basic agronomic principles leading to improved stand establishment to maximize stand persistence involving sowing time, seeding rate, and weed control. Our second major goal is to further refine best management practices to optimize yield, persistence, and weed control in perennial wheat stands by manipulating fertility application and chemical weed control regimes. The development of this knowledge will be critical for the successful integration of perennial wheat into small grain cropping systems in the PNW and for developing realistic economic evaluations of perennial wheat in a producer’s crop rotation scheme. We will rely heavily on the experience of our producer collaborators for direction in establishing appropriate sowing, fertility, and weed management regimes for the rainfall zones represented by their land. These manipulations will utilize both our most promising current perennial lines, bulk populations developed with the support of WSARE: USDA/ CSREES program (Grant number SW01-039), and the newly created hybrids described above.

Cooperators

Click linked name(s) to expand
  • Timothy Murray

Research

Materials and methods:

Objective 1: To determine best management practices of perennial wheat lines for minimizing soil loss and maximizing yield.
In the fall of 2000 (the year preceding the beginning of the granting period), 280 of our advanced perennial wheat lines were planted in 10 ft rows at three locations to begin small-scale yield trials that will run over a four-year period. Three cultivars of annual wheat adapted to the Pacific Northwest will be planted each year to serve as controls. Each line will be scored for grain yield, grain quality, test weight, and stand persistence (plant and tiller density) during each year of the grant. Seed from superior lines will be increased as part of the management experiments detailed below and will proceed toward release to farmers.
The best lines will never be successful unless we know how to manage them. We will work closely with farmers and extension agents to determine the best management practices for the most promising lines. Beginning in the fall of 2001, eight of our advanced perennial lines were planted in 4’ x 20’ plots with six replicates at the Pullman, Ritzville, and Kahlotus sites. The last two sites are in highly erodible regions of farmers’ fields. Seed will be derived from the fall 2000 plantings described above. The lines will be selected based on their performance in that field season, and will include lines with both caespetose and rhizomatous perennial growth habits. Management techniques will be performed on subplots of these mainplots. Using these eight best lines, we will concentrate on three key management parameters:
1) Planting date and rate. Lines will be planted in both the fall and spring to determine optimum planting dates for stand establishment, a critical factor for erosion control. Four seeding densities (1.69 g/m-4.19 g/m) will be evaluated. Stand density, tiller number, and grain yield will be measured for three successive years.
2) Weed control timing. Healthy, dense stands of perennial grasses will reduce weed competition (31), but herbicides will likely be needed as a control measure the first few years. Both a selective herbicide and a non-selective herbicide will be tested. We are particularly interested in determining if weeds can be controlled non-selectively during perennial wheat dormancy.
3) Fertility management. We will investigate the effect of the timing of fertilizer application on stand persistence (plant density and tiller number over time) and on stand yield. Fertilizer rates and composition will be based on formulations for conventional wheat and on soil testing and available moisture. We wish to determine which is more effective, a single application in the spring or in the fall, and to determine if multiple applications (both fall and spring) are cost effective.
Experiments will be designed using a randomized complete block or RCB split-plot designs with four to six replicates. Data will be subjected to analysis of variance using appropriate models. Means will be compared using Fisher’s protected LSD test.
For perennial wheat to be a viable option in low-input sustainable small grain systems, they should be selected under these management conditions. Therefore, we have chosen not to evaluate techniques such as burn vs. no-burn, fungicide vs. no-fungicide, and insecticide vs. no-insecticide. We view this new crop plant as one of very low inputs both economically and politically and are not planning testing under systems with significant financial or political ramifications. In an unrelated project, we have initiated a breeding program to support certified organic annual wheat producers in Washington State and now have 11 acres of certified organic land to conduct these trials. In the future, we foresee adding perennial lines to our existing organic management test plots.
Disease may impact yield, particularly as the stand ages. Determining the occurrence and significance of diseases in perennial wheat will be continued throughout this grant by evaluating lines for incidence and severity of diseases in the field plots during the growing season. As lines proceed toward variety release, additional field sites and laboratory tests will be included to screen for disease resistance. The overall philosophy with respect to selection for disease resistance is to grow perennial wheats in locations where the disease of interest occurs frequently even though, in some cases, this is not the area targeted for perennial wheat production. By doing so, we increase the chances of successfully identifying resistant lines under field conditions. All advanced perennial wheat germplasm will be screened for resistance to eyespot using the GUS seedling test (27), which is conducted under controlled environment conditions, and for resistance to Cephalosporium stripe and snow molds in field plots located in areas where these diseases are endemic. Visual assessments for the presence of a disease will be confirmed by microscopic examination of fruiting structures, isolation, and culture of pathogens, or, in the case of Wheat Streak Mosaic Virus and Barley Yellow Dwarf Virus, by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA: antibodies are already available at WSU).

Objective 2: To evaluate the economic feasibility of perennial cropping systems, based on yield, straw usage, and market class.
We will work closely with farmers, and extension agents to address this objective. Because we will have yield trial data from three distinct agro-climatic environments, we will be able to address such basic questions as: Can perennial wheat compete on a dollar basis with CRP? Over the long-term, how many acres can profitably be put into perennial wheat? What are the benefits of strip-cropping perennials?
Education is a key component for success. With the help of the above personnel we have access to large existing networks to disseminate information garnered from this research. We will begin with the question “What is the cost of erosion control?” We will be able to answer “Actually, it can be profitable and here is how.”
Good farmers must be good economists. The entire team mentioned above will determine the “break-even” thresholds in this new production system. Wagoner (28), working with a perennial wheatgrass system, determined that in Western North Dakota the break-even dollar amount was about $40/acre on land that could be harvested for four years, based on a 1-ton straw yield in addition to the grain. We will utilize standard modeling software available to agricultural economists to update the break-even analysis for wheat/fallow rotations and various three-year rotations in use in higher rainfall areas.

Objective 3: To evaluate the agronomic potential of accessions from the perennial Triticeae genera Thinopyrum, Dasypyrum, Leymus, and Agropyron.
To date, all the perennial germplasm in our breeding program has come from hybridizations with accessions of three Thinopyrum species. These sources represent a small percentage of the perennial species in the tribe Triticeae that may be useful sources of perennial habit and other agronomic traits for perennial wheat. We suspect there is significant potential for improving end-use quality, emergence, maturity rate, stand persistence, and disease resistance in other accessions of wild wheat relatives (34, 38, 39). We plan to focus on evaluating accessions of species in the four genera listed above because of the relative ease with which they can be hybridized to wheat, and in the case of Thinopyrum, the availability of germplasm selected for agronomic use (21, 28). The 112 accessions representing 32 species in these genera have been planted in the first year of this grant at our three test-plot sites. Field observations will form the basis for parental selection in producing new amphiploids that will be included in our breeding program. We ultimately envision utilizing genetically diverse multilines to ease disease pressures in perennial fields (29). Currently, Washington leads the nation in the use of multi-lines. The variety ‘Rely’ is a 10-component multiline and it is one of the primary club wheats in acreage in the state (30).

Objective 4: To disseminate germplasm and information regarding best management practices to wheat producers on marginal lands in Washington State and to release germplasm to other breeding programs worldwide.
Local technology transfer will be carried out through existing channels such as Wheat Life magazine, extension publications (state and regional), field days, twilight farm tours, grower meetings and the popular press. Members of the perennial program typically give approximately 40 or more talks to Washington State producers each year. The perennial wheat section of our program has figured prominently in these venues for the last several years (40, 41). National technology transfer will occur through extension publication, the National Wheat Improvement Committee (Murray is a member and Jones is an ad hoc member), the National Wheat Crop Germplasm Committee (Jones was past chair), Annual Wheat Newsletter, and various annual scientific meetings such as those for the American Society of Agronomy and American Phytopathological Society. Germplasm releases will be published in the journal Crop Science and samples will be submitted to USDA-Small Grains Collection in Aberdeen, ID for free distribution. Although these lines will be adapted to winter-precipitation zones, they will be valuable to breeding programs throughout the U.S. We also view these lines as not only utilizing genetic resources, but also as a way of preserving them ex situ. We have received numerous inquiries about providing perennial germplasm for breeders, agronomists, conservation groups, and wildlife managers throughout the world.

Research results and discussion:

Objective 1:
To determine best management practices of perennial wheat lines for minimizing soil loss and maximizing yield.
1) Planting date and rate. We wished to determine whether it was advantageous for long-term stand persistence to allow a season of vegetative growth prior to seed production. Second-year stand persistence and yield were not improved by a season of vegetative growth. However, it was determined based on experiments comparing early versus late spring planting dates that the vernalization requirements for many of our lines are quite low. This was an important observation for developing management strategies in drier regions of the state, as it allows us to utilize the maximal soil moisture present in early spring in these areas for seedling establishment, while still allowing grain production in the same year. Four seeding densities (1.69 g/m- 4.19 g/m) were evaluated. Yields were found to be greatest at a relatively low seeding rate of 2.44 g/m at Spillman farm, compared to the optimal rate of 3.38g/m for annual wheat controls.
2) Weed control timing. Healthy, dense stands of perennial grasses will reduce weed competition 31, but herbicides will likely be needed as a control measure the first few years. A non-selective pre-emergence herbicide (PROWL) was tested. Application of PROWL during the late fall after the onset of the winter rainfall season was found to be an effective control for winter annual weeds and volunteer wheat in breeding plots, with no noticable effect on perennial survival. Standard applications of selective broadleaf herbicides and herbicides targeting wild oat suggested that Thinopyrum-Triticum hybrids are similar to Triticum spp. in regards to herbicide sensitivities. This greatly facilitates incorporation of perennial wheat into annual wheat systems as a buffer and water-course border.
3) Fertility management. The effect of the timing of fertilizer application on stand persistence (plant density and tiller number over time) and on stand yield was compared for spring, and dual spring and fall application. This experiment was unfortunately terminated after one year due to poor stand persistence from winterkill. This reflected a poor choice of experimental material on our part. We are now in the position to re-investigate the issue of fertility management using the bulk populations developed with WSARE support.

Objective 2:
To evaluate the economic feasibility of perennial cropping systems, based on yield, straw usage, and market class.

More breeding cycles are required before we can be certain that we have produced varieties that have the requisite attributes of stand persistence and end use quality to ensure minimal economic risk to the farmer who chooses to adopt this new cropping system.

Objective 3:
To evaluate the agronomic potential of accessions from the perennial Triticeae genera Thinopyrum, Dasypyrum, Leymus, and Agropyron.

Perennial nurseries were established in the 500mm rainfall area at Spillman Experimental Farm at Pullman WA and in the 150mm rainfall area at Moore Ranch at Kahlotus WA. Sixty-eight accessions from nine genera were evaluated for disease resistances, winter hardiness, tillering habit, and uniform seed set and grain ripening. Aside from the genera listed above, species in Elytrigia, Elymus, Pascopyron, Psathyrostachys, and Psuedoroegnaria, were evaluated. In the high rainfall zone, accessions from 27 species in six genera were found to show reasonable adaptedness, based on stand persistence. However, in the low rainfall zone, accessions of only four species, Thinopyrum elongatum, Thinopyrum ponticum, Thinopyrum intermedium, and Pascopyrum distichum, displayed sufficient vigor and stand persistence to warrant further use in the perennial wheat breeding program. Within these species, significant variation was found between accessions for leaf and stem rust resistance, winterhardiness, seed size, synchronous ripening, tillering habit, and extent of shattering and brittle rachis traits. Based on these results and genetic considerations, we are now focusing our hybridization program exclusively on three species, Th. ponticum, Th. intermedium, and P.smithii. Progeny from individuals of these species demonstrating superior agronomic potential are being sown on the Moore Ranch in March 2004 in order to further select future parental germplasm in a pre-breeding program.
Two strategies were employed to introduce genetic material from the agronomically superior parents identified above. Seed from perennial Thinopyrum individuals was used to produce hybrids with annual wheat. Approximately 150 F1 individuals were produced from crosses with Chinese Spring, and these were subjected to colchicine to facilitate the production of fertile sectors within these plants, and these were allowed to self pollinate. The F2 individuals were then used in crosses with perennial wheat lines identified previous to obtaining WSARE funding. The perennial Thinopyrum was also used as a female parent in crosses with these same perennial lines in order to begin a new direction in our program, focusing on using annual wheat as a source of genetic material for improving the agronomic characteristics of perennial parents. To our knowledge, this approach has not been tried before in a large-scale breeding project, but we are hopeful that this approach may be useful in improving seed size, yield, and acceptable grain quality in the background of a perennial plant.
The new seed described above has been planted at Spillman Farm, Moore Ranch, and Schoesler Ranch as part of four bulk populations in an evolutionary breeding strategy that we are developing for breeding perennial grains. The four populations consist of: bulk mixes of lines developed before WSARE support; progeny produced from crosses between these lines produced using WSARE support; populations incorporating the new perennial parents identified in this grant that used perennial wheat as a recurrent female parent; and populations incorporating the new perennial parents as the recurrent female parent. Because of the high degree of segregation in newly created hybrids and the tendency toward out-crossing in perennial wheat lines, we feel that bulk selection strategies will prove a far more efficient strategy for making progress in perennial wheat development than will the pedigree breeding strategies commonly employed in annual small grain breeding.

Objective 4:
To disseminate germplasm and information regarding best management practices to wheat producers on marginal lands in Washington State, and to release germplasm to other breeding programs worldwide.

We have released perennial lines to researchers at Kansas State University and The Land Institute in Salinas, Kansas. We are soliciting funds for a joint breeding project with researchers at ICARDA, Syria, to produce and evaluate perennial wheat lines in arid lands in the developing world. The bulk populations produced with the support of WSARE will be sown on farmers’ fields as water-course buffers in Franklin County, WA and Whitman County, WA in a Washington State Department of Ecology water quality and soil conservation program (grant # FP04007). This will allow us to evaluate the management practices established with WSARE support under field conditions.

Research conclusions:

This research will benefit producers in the Western Region by giving them a crop that will help hold the soil and reduce wind and water erosion. Less erosion means a greater sustainability for the farmers and a healthier and cleaner environment for us all. The crop will also be beneficial to wildlife as habitat and to fish and water dwellers by reducing sedimentation in waterways. Rural communities will be helped in that this is an alternative to CRP so that some marginal land will be brought back into production at minimal environmental cost.
The most important results to emerge from our study are the creation of four populations of perennial lines for continued selection and knowledge about optimal seeding rates, seeding dates, weed management, and fertility regimes for these populations. The funding we received for perennial parent evaluation will ensure continued progress in our attempts to develop more sustainable small grain production systems adapted to the PNW.

Participation Summary

Educational & Outreach Activities

Participation Summary:

Education/outreach description:

Invited Talks
November 1, 2004. American Society of Agronomy. Annual meeting. Seattle, Washington. Invited talk on polycarpic wheat.

September 16, 2004. Australian Cooperative Research Centre. Perth, Australia. Invited talk on polycarpic wheat

January 22, 2004. Eco-Farm 24th Annual Conference. Monterey, California. Invited speaker on breeding in the public domain for a sustainable future.

November 15, 2003. Annual National Biodynamic Conference, Ames, Iowa. Invited dinner speaker; Title: Breeding for low input and perennial agroecosytems.

November 14, 2003. Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture, Ames, Iowa. Invited speaker on breeding and genetics required for organic and sustainable agriculture.

November 13, 2003. Iowa State University, Ames, Iowa. Invited departmental talk on perennial wheat and chromosome manipulation.

October 4, 2003. Provender Alliance. Wilsonville, Oregon. West Coast association of small food retailers. Invited speaker on issues relating to sustainable organic production.

Towards Perennial Wheat. Steve Jones, NPSAS, Iowa State University. November, 2003

Breeding for Sustainable Organic and Perennial Agroecosystems. Steve Jones, Montana Organic Conference. December, 2003

Perennial wheat is possible. Doug Lammer and Steve Jones, International Federation of Organic Agricultural Movements International Conference, Victoria, B.C., Canada, August, 2002.

Developement of perennial wheat as an alternative, sustainable cropping system in the Pacific Northwest. Doug Lammer. Canadian Sustainable Agriculture Network Annual Meeting, Humbolt Saskatchewan, Canada, December, 2001.

Developement of perennial wheat as an alternative, sustainable cropping system in the Pacific Northwest. Doug Lammer. Department of Soil Science, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, December 2001.

Wide crosses with Thinopyrum for introduction of novel disease resistances and perennial habit. Doug Lammer, Central Asian Wheat Conference, Almaty, Kazakhstan, June, 2003.

Graduate Student Projects involving perennial wheat.

Scheinost, P. Masters Thesis. Field evaluation of Thinopyrum X Triticum hybrids and characterization of wild Triticeae species for the development of perennial wheat. Graduation May 2002.

Cox, C. Perennial wheat germplasm lines resistant to Eyespot, Cephalosporium Stripe, and Wheat Streak Mosaic. Graduation May, 2000.

Alysia Greco, Masters Thesis. A Developmental and physiological analysis of perennial Triticum-Thinopyrum amphipolids. Graduation May, 2004.

Jeron Chatelain, Masters Thesis. Use of Aegilops cylindrical gametocidal chromosome 2C in mapping regrowth genes from Thinopyrum elongatum 4E. Graduation May, 2004.

Matthew Arterburn, Ph.D. Thesis. An integrated genetic and physical map of Thinpoyrum elongatum 4E. Graduation date, May 2006.

Publications

Murphy K., D. Lammer, S. Lyon, B. Carter, S.S. Jones. Breeding for organic and low-input farming systems: An evolutionary-participatory breeding method for inbred cereal grains. Renewable Agriculture and Food Systems 20: 45-55.
2005

Li, H.J., M. Arterburn, S.S. Jones and T.D. Murray. Resistance to eyespot of wheat, caused by Tapesia yallundae, derived from Thinopyrum intermedium homoeologous group 4 chromosome. Theor Appl Genet. 111: 932-940.
2005

Lammer, D., Cai, Xiwen, Arterburn, M., Chatelain, J., Murray, T.D., and Jones, S.S. A single chromosome addition from perennial Thinopyrum elongatum confers a polycarpic, perennial habit to annual wheat. Journal of Experimental Botany. Vol. 55, No 403; 1715-1720. 2004

Li, H.J., M. Arterburn, S.S. Jones and T.D. Murray. A new source of resistance to Tapesia yallundae associated with a homoeologous group 4 chromosome in Thinopyrum ponticum. Phytopathology. Vol. 94, No. 9; 932-937. 2004

Cox, C.M., Murray, T.D., and Jones, S.S. Perennial wheat germplasm lines resistant to Eyespot, Cephalosporium Stripe, and Wheat Streak Mosaic. Plant Disease. 86: number 9: 1043-1048, 2002

Scheinost, P., Lammer, D., Cai, X., Murray, T., and Jones, S. Perennial wheat: A sustainable cropping system for the Pacific Northwest. American Journal of Alternative Agriculture. 16: number 4: 146-150, 2001

Jones, S., Murray, T., Lammer, D., Lyon, S, Haydock, A., Scheinost, P., Cox, C., Cai, X. A wheat to hold the landscape together. The Land Report, 67: 3-6, 2000

Van Tassel, D., Yoder, A., and Lammer, D. To Die or Not To Die: reflections on the mechanism of perennialism in plants. The Land Report, 67, 8, 2000

Lammer D, X. Cai, M. Arterburn, J. Chatelain, T. Murray, S. Jones. A single chromosome addition from Thinopyrum elongatum confers a perennial, polycarpic growth habit to annual wheat. In review at Journal of Experimantal Botany.

Li, H.J., Arterburn, M., Jones, S.S., Murray, T.D. A new source of resistance to Tapesia yallundae associated with a homoeologous group 4 chromosome in Thinopyrum ponticum. In review at Journal of Phytopathology

Other outreach activity

Members of the Washington State University Winter Wheat Breeding and Genetics Program typically give approximately 20 talks each year at field days, twilight field tours, and wheat grower association meetings in Washington State. Our work on developing perennial wheat continues to figure prominently in these talks.

Project Outcomes

Project outcomes:

More breeding cycles are required before we can be certain that we have produced varieties that have the requisite attributes of stand persistence and end use quality to ensure minimal economic risk to the farmer who chooses to adopt this new cropping system. Therefore, any economic evaluation at this time is premature. Our decision to concentrate on bulk selection strategies rather than pedigree breeding strategies will result in significant cost savings to our program in terms of labor and field operations.

Farmer Adoption

We have established several large bulk populations of perennial wheat germplasm during the period of support by WSARE. Although these are not yet ready for full commercial release, these populations will be sown as field borders and water-course buffers on three farmer’s fields during August of 2004 as part of a Washington State Department of Ecology project (Project #FP04007). We anticipate this will continue to raise the interest in perennial wheat development and soil conservation strategies by regional growers. We have also released perennial lines to researchers at Kansas State University and The Land Institute in Salinas, Kansas. We therefore anticipate that the germplasm developed with WSARE funding will be useful in the development of perennial wheat for farmers in other regions of the country as well.

Recommendations:

Areas needing additional study

Based on the work funded by WSARE, we have significantly modified and refined our breeding strategy for perennial plants relative to those strategies typically employed to breed annual wheats. We are relying increasingly on bulk selection/evolutionary breeding strategies due to the high degree of segregation within early generations of newly produced amphiploids and also due to the higher degree of outcrossing typically seen in perennial wheats under field conditions. A second breeding issue is developing management strategies for efficiently preventing volunteer seed contamination during harvest, particularly after the first season of growth. A second area of research that we have initiated is an evaluation of the possibility of using annual wheat to enhance the agronomic characteristics and grain yield of perennial Thinopyrum, as a complement to the more usual strategy of using Thinopyrum as a source for introducing perennial habit to annual wheat. We feel that this strategy has excellent potential to produce a relatively high yielding and extremely persistent crop for use in very dry or eroded environments in Washington State. Such a crop may eventually find a market as a feed wheat.

Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.