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A wheat for all seasons -- and reasons
Date:10/16/2007

BUSHLAND The seeds may be lacking for perennial wheat to be grown on any significant basis in Texas, but interest is not, according to Dr. Charlie Rush, Texas Agricultural Experiment Station plant pathologist.

From wheat producers and cattle grazing operators to multiple state plant breeders, Rush is finding a groundswell of interest as he begins planting new varieties and starts a second year on his perennial wheat study.

Rush obtained his initial perennial wheat seed stock from Drs. Steve Jones and Kevin Murphy at Washington State University in 2006. Rushs first interest was in the perennial wheat disease resistance research by Dr. Tim Murray, professor and chair of the plant pathology department, and Jones, a wheat breeder.

He will be looking at perennial lines of wheat wheat that regrows after harvest and may survive for up to five years for use in dual-purpose grain-grazing cropping systems or as a potential feedstock for the cellulosic bioenergy industry.

Perennial crops by their nature increase carbon in the soil, reduce erosion and improve water quality, Rush said. Perennial wheat also offers the chance for producers to put cattle in the field earlier and graze longer in the spring, while still harvesting grain.

Weve been told by producers that having an extra few weeks in March or even early April will be beneficial, because that is when the cattle are putting on the weight, he said.

With perennial wheat straw being harvested for a bioenergy feedstock, Rush said environmental issues are not a problem. The straw can be cut short and the wheat quickly grows back, so the soil doesnt blow.

Were just at the beginning of this work, he said. The perennial lines weve looked at has not been regionally adapted. So thats where we are now. Once we get regionally adapted perennial lines, they will have even greater value.

Rush, as well as Murray and Jones, is joining with Dr. Stan Cox, a wheat breeder with The Land Institu
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Contact: Charlie Rush
crush@ag.tamu.edu
806-354-05804
Texas A&M University - Agricultural Communications
Source:Eurekalert

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