October 12, 2012
The top six perennial wheat lines from an intensive three-year selection trial have now been entered into a rigorous testing program to measure their performance in grain and grazing trials. NSW Department of Primary Industries researcher, Matt Newell, said the Cowra-based study is testing lines sourced from the Tamworth Australian Winter Collections Unit, US Land Institute and Washington State University. “The top six were selected from 187 lines during the trial which was conducted at the Cowra Agricultural Research and Advisory Station (CARAS) and on-farm at Woodstock,” Mr Newell said. “If perennial wheat is going to make it here it has to fit into our farming systems as a dual-purpose wheat, which can be used as a forage crop for livestock and for grain. “Here at CARAS we’re measuring grain yield and dry matter production to compare the perennial lines with Wedgetail, a conventional winter wheat and the perennial grass, Thinopyrum intermedium. Now in its second year, the study has simulated four treatments – no grazing; grazed once; grazed twice; and grazed twice followed by a hay cut. Mr Newell said that the perennial crops had extra flexibility which could offer farmers more choice in timing the grazing of their crops, in summer and winter. “The distribution of dry matter production differed markedly across lines and seasons,” he said. “In the first spring, all the perennial lines produced less biomass than winter wheat but more than the perennial grass. Strong growth of the hybrid perennial lines in summer and into autumn illustrated the grazing potential the crops had while still producing grain. “This may also offer farmers an opportunity to rest other pastures and help fill feed gaps during the season.” In the grazing and hay cut regime some perennial lines produced significant grain yields compared with limited grain production from winter wheat, but in all other treatments the grain yield from the winter wheat was higher than the hybrid perennial lines. Grazing intensity had no significant effect on plant survival of the perennial lines post-harvest, but researchers need to quantify that effect over a longer period of time. The perennial wheat grazing and grain trial is due to run for another two years.