Scientists develop new wheat-wheatgrass hybrid

January 17, 2017, Washington State University
WSU graduate research assistant Colin Curwen-McAdams is with ×Tritipyrum aaseae. Credit: WSU

With a hybrid crop called Salish Blue, scientists at Washington State University have combined wheat and wheatgrass in a new species with the potential to help Pacific Northwest farmers and the environment.

Salish Blue is just one variety of a new perennial grain species, ×Tritipyrum aaseae. It's the first to be named by breeders at WSU in 122 years of breeding.

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, describe development of the species in a recent issue of Genetic Resources and Crop Evolution.

Perennial grains add value

Unlike bread wheat, which is planted and dies in a single generation, perennial grains hold the promise of bearing seed for multiple harvests. At the same time, perennial hybrids can bring ecological benefits to grain production.

"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."

Breeding Salish Blue, which was developed as a potential food and dairy forage crop for the Pacific Northwest, gives farmers new options.

"We're working with farmers to determine what Salish Blue will do and how it will fit with their rotations," said Jones.

Named for early WSU professor

For the past century, breeders around the world have been trying to develop a perennial grain crop from wheat and its wild relatives. Development of Salish Blue caps 21 years of work by WSU scientists to stabilize bread wheat-wheatgrass hybrids through classical plant breeding without using gene modification.

Combining wheatgrass with , which contains three separate genomes, posed a challenge.

"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.

The new species is named after professor Hannah Aase, who explored wheat genetics as a botanist and cell biologist at Washington State College, now WSU, from 1914 to 1949. She died in 1980.

"The work Dr. Aase did was important but largely overlooked," said Curwen-McAdams. "She was trying to answer the question of where wheat comes from. We wanted to honor her and bring her back to the forefront."

Clear names share knowledge

In their paper, Curwen-McAdams and Jones call for breeders and geneticists to contribute to nomenclature - how species are named - to advance the science of grain hybrids.

"We wanted to lay out a strategy for naming these combinations, and then name one ourselves to show how it's done," said Curwen-McAdams. "It's no longer wheat or a wild species. Naming this as a new lets us think about how it fits into our agriculture."

Explore further: Enhanced wheat curl mite control found in genes

More information: Colin Curwen-McAdams et al. Toward a taxonomic definition of perennial wheat: a new species ×Tritipyrum aaseae described, Genetic Resources and Crop Evolution (2016). DOI: 10.1007/s10722-016-0463-3

Related Stories

Enhanced wheat curl mite control found in genes

November 9, 2016

The Texas High Plains high winds are known for causing more than just bad hair days; they are a major contributor to the spread of wheat curl mite-transmitted viral diseases in wheat.

Recommended for you

Apple pivot led by star-packed video service

March 25, 2019

With Hollywood stars galore, Apple unveiled its streaming video plans Monday along with news and game subscription offerings as part of an effort to shift its focus to digital content and services to break free of its reliance ...

How tree diversity regulates invading forest pests

March 25, 2019

A national-scale study of U.S. forests found strong relationships between the diversity of native tree species and the number of nonnative pests that pose economic and ecological threats to the nation's forests.

Scientists solve mystery shrouding oldest animal fossils

March 25, 2019

Scientists from The Australian National University (ANU) have discovered that 558 million-year-old Dickinsonia fossils do not reveal all of the features of the earliest known animals, which potentially had mouths and guts.

Earth's deep mantle flows dynamically

March 25, 2019

As ancient ocean floors plunge over 1,000 km into the Earth's deep interior, they cause hot rock in the lower mantle to flow much more dynamically than previously thought, finds a new UCL-led study.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.