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Australia Sustains World's First Perennial Wheat Crop

13 October 2011

AUSTRALIA - A small town in central west New South Wales is home to the world's only successful perennial wheat crop.

Department of Primary Industry trails at Woodstock near Cowra have been growing for three years, while other trials across the world died after two years of germination.

If commercialised, it could diversify farming operations because perennial wheat re-germinates every year while conventional wheat must be replanted annually.

Researcher Richard Hayes says he's surprised the wheat was able to survive in the Australian climate.

"We actually got the stuff to survive and we didn't expect to," Hayes said. "Perennial grain is actually made artificially by hybridising a perennial grass to an annual wheat. We had some scepticism as to if that would actually work. We were also sceptical that it would work in our environment."

Mr Hayes says it will be a long time before farmers can commercial plant a crop of perennial wheat, but this is a starting point.

To-date trailing perennial wheat varieties have not been a priority for agricultural organisations reports ABC Rural.

"There is a reason there isn't any commercial perennial grain grown in the world and that's just because these plants just don't exist, they haven't evolved. The material in its current form is still not suitable for commercial release, so we're not going to get a perennial grains crop any time soon," Hayes said. "What we're finding is it's highly variable, so we certainly had excisions that were measly and not very impressive at all. But then we had lines that were actually quiet impressive, to look at them you could mistake them for a conventional crop."

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