International effort to deliver perennial wheat a drawcard

DPI researcher, Matthew Newell, addresses the gathered graziers at the 30th Grassland Society of NSW conference.
DPI researcher, Matthew Newell, addresses the gathered graziers at the 30th Grassland Society of NSW conference.

One of the major talking points to come out of the 30th Grassland Society of NSW conference this week was the combined work by NSW DPI researcher, Matthew Newell and The Land Institute (TLI), a non-profit research organisation in Kansas.

The work that Mr Newell is undertaking is designed to develop and grow perennial wheat to produce dual purpose grazing and grain crops suited to Australian conditions.

Mr Newell said that while the conference had given insights into better pasture use in livestock systems, food security depended on the ability to produce edible grains.

“Cereals, oil seeds and grain legumes provide 70 per cent of the calories that the world’s population consumes and those crops occupy 70 to 80 per cent of our arable land,” he said.

“We are proposing a change or redesign of the cropping system so that we can harness the benefits of perennials with the benefit of producing grain.

“These dual purpose crops could provide valuable winter forage for livestock, at a time when pasture growth is limited, and in the right conditions be harvested for grain,” he said.

Mr Newell said that thanks to the TLI-bred lines he had brought back he could expand his research and that intermediate wheatgrass, a perennial relative of traditional annual wheat, had become the “poster child for the perennial wheat movement”.