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Farmers and environmentalists alike seek a crop that is economically and environmentally sound. A new crop ‘perennial wheat’ may have that potential. Perennial wheat is a crop that has been under development for almost 70 years, across the globe. It is currently being trialed on farmers’ organic fields in Michigan. Unfortunately, we still do not have a stable line that offers reliable harvest and reliable regrowth. The recent research that has been conducted at Michigan State University includes production on organic fields at Kellogg Biological Station (KBS), MSU in Southwest Michigan. The lines that are being field-tested were bred at Washington State University and the Land Use Institute in Salinas, Kansas. To date, some of the lines have survived for three years at the Kellogg Biological Research Station in southwest Michigan. This year, two of the most promising lines are being grown on organic farms.

This crop was developed by crossing winter wheat with several perennial grass relatives using conventional breeding and selecting for the perennial trait, the ability to regrow after grain is harvested. Multiple crosses were made with annual wheat. The newest crop ‘perennial wheat’ has about 75% genetic material from annual wheat, and about 25% from Intermediate Wheat Grass (Thinopyrum intermedium) and other perennial grasses. The goal is to have a crop that produces a grain, harvestable in the same manner as annual wheat and that regrows for at least three years. As a perennial crop, this plant offers multiple uses including grazing, soil coverage and grain yield. Growing the grain on-farm offers a means to try various combinations on well-established organically managed soils. Some management systems that will be tested include animal grazing combined with grain harvest, in different years. The best outcomes will be tested at the research site and replicated to test the results.