[permaculture] Scientists breed new blue-hued wheat hybrid that can plant itself. Farming might never be the same

Lawrence London lfljvenaura at gmail.com
Wed Feb 15 19:42:15 EST 2017


Scientists breed new blue-hued wheat hybrid that can plant itself. Farming
might never be the same
http://www.zmescience.com/ecology/wheat-hybrid-plants-itself/

Scientists breed new blue-hued wheat hybrid that can plant itself. Farming
might never be the same
*25* Shares
Tibi Puiu February 14, 2017
[image: Chromosomes and characteristics of the perennial hybrid, Salish
Blue. Credit: Washington State Uni.]
<http://cdn.zmescience.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/02/10722_2016_463_Fig1_HTML.jpg>

Chromosomes and characteristics of the perennial hybrid, Salish Blue.
Credit: Washington State Uni.

Come spring, wheat farmers all over the world have to tediously start
sowing millions of seeds to prepare for the next crop. It’s very annoying
but farmers have gotten used to it after a couple thousand years. This is
set to change, however, if the creation of researchers from Washington
State University is to ever catch on. Essentially, they’ve created a new
wheat species called Salish Blue that’s a hybrid between annual wheat and
perennial (self-planting, self-regenerating) wheat grass, also known as
wild grass. As an added bonus, the new grain is blue-hued.

The work was carried out by Colin Curwen-McAdams, a graduate research
assistant at the WSU Bread Lab at Mount Vernon, and Stephen Jones, wheat
breeder and director of the lab.

“Perennial grains add value in ways other than just being wheat,” said
Curwen-McAdams. “What we need right now are crops that hold the soil, add
organic matter and use moisture and nutrients more efficiently. That’s the
goal of this breeding program.”

Because the soil isn’t empty for half the year, a perennial crop will
enhance the soil’s quality thanks to its deeper roots and lower
energy/fertilizer input requirements.

Almost 75% of all food crops farmed in America are annual, requiring
reseeding after each cycle. Not only is this a huge hassle that costs
billions but annual crops can also erode the soil because fields lie fallow
and inactive most of the time. Because the water, air, and overall quality
of the soil are better where perennial crops grow, the grains can be
expected to be more nutritious and healthy.

The current hybrid, Salish Blue, was 21 years in the making. It’s the
product of years and years of work as scientists battled to stabilize the
hybrid through classical plant breeding without using gene modification.
The challenge was to somehow make three different genomes reconcile with
each other.

“It’s incredibly difficult to get what qualities you want, and hold on to
them over generations, while not bringing along other things that aren’t
desirable,” said Jones.

For now, Salish Blue (*×Tritipyrum aaseae*) grows only on a small plot of
land on the university’s 500-acre farm to the sole enjoyment of organic
dairy cows. Curwen-McAdams says the grains aren’t yet vetted for human
consumption but that didn’t stop him to make shortbread and pancakes out of
them. And yes, these were blue pancakes!

“Pancakes are my favorite thing to do with it,” he told NPR.
<http://www.npr.org/sections/thesalt/2017/02/08/513239465/dont-call-it-wheat-an-environmentally-friendly-grain-takes-root>

The findings appeared in the journal *Genetic Resources and Crop Evolution*
<http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10722-016-0463-3>.


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