Charles Sturt University
Graham Centre for Agricultural Innovation

PhD shows promise of perennial wheat

The potential for perennial wheat as an option for mixed farming enterprises has been demonstrated by Charles Sturt University (CSU) PhD graduate Dr Jesmin Aktar

"The development of perennial grain crops could offer more flexibility in existing farming systems by providing grain and grazing options that are potentially more compatible with environmental sustainability, Dr Aktar said.

Dr Aktar's PhD research showed perennial wheat can survive for three years, re-grow and produce grain and forage. 

The research was carried out under controlled conditions in large soil columns in a screen-house, and with some further field validation at Cowra.

"The research compared perennial wheat derivatives with the dual purpose annual wheat, Wedgetail, and a perennial grass," Dr Aktar said.

"I was able to confirm the potential for the use of current germplasms of perennial wheat and perennial grass.

"Both were able to survive for three years and regrow, and were able to achieve the benchmark in grain yield, 40 per cent of annual wheat yield with added forage.

"The research also indicated established perennial wheat may have an advantage in dry times.

"The deeper and longer lived extensive root systems in perennials were able to extract more water from deeper soil depths and to support  longer survival compared to annual wheat under extended drying down conditions."

Althought the findings are promising, Dr Aktar said there's a need for the research to be replicated in larger field experiments.

Dr Aktar will be awarded her PhD titled 'Dry matter partitioning and root growth in an annual wheat, a perennial wheatgrass and four  perennial wheat derivatives' in a ceremony on Tuesday 12 December.

Dr Aktar's research was supported by a Research by Higher Degree (COMPACT) scholarship and she is one of 11 PhD students from the Graham Centre for Agricultural Innovation who will be graduating in 2017.