Perennial Wheat: A Possible Remedy for Food Shortage
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Perennial Wheat: A Possible Remedy for Food Shortage

This is a report about perennial wheat. Perennial wheat has the potential to lessen the intensity of food shortage in the world....

The development of a new variety of wheat could evolve as a possible remedy for food shortage around the world. Cereal crops such as wheat, maize, rice, etc. are annual food crops and the plants bearing these cereals die along with the harvest and the farmers have to grow new plants for the next crop. This would entail considerable labor and expense. Adding to the farmers’ woes, in many places vagaries of climate is a regular feature. Natural calamities, draught, insufficient rainfall, irregular rainfall, excessive rainfall, etc can play havoc to the cropping patterns and cropping possibilities of a region. Lack of proper irrigation facilities is another reason for crop failure. Farmers may be left bankrupt, millions may starve. National economies may register low, nil or negative growth. Recurring crop failure is a bane of many developing economies.

A new variety of crop called “perennial wheat” has been in the process of development for many years. Researchers have reached a hopeful stage and perennial wheat may be ready for cultivation soon. Unlike the annual varieties of wheat, which can give yield only for one year, the perennial wheat can grow annual crop successively for about 7 years. Researchers at the Michigan State University have been at the work for several years now and they are now hopeful about their success.

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The perennial variety of wheat, which is developed by the researchers, has been found to be sprouting again after the summer harvest. And it will successively grow for seven cropping years. This perennial variety of wheat is good for soil conservation also. As the plants last for several years, there is no need to plough the field and hence the incidence soil erosion is minimal. Farmers can save the annual sowing expenses and wheat farming will be more profitable.  Researchers are very hopeful about the new variety of wheat. At the school of WK Kellogg Biological Station in Kalamazoo County’s Ross Township, lots of lines of perennial wheat have been found to be very promising.

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Researchers at the research centre have been involved in the studies of the possibilities of developing a perennial variety if wheat and they are hopeful about the success. They had tried first the idea of crossing annual wheat with a perennial relative such as intermediate wheatgrass. This success is a prelude to the development of the perennial variety of wheat.  Wheat research initiatives were undertaken by the USA and Russia as early as 1920’s. These research activities were continued during the 1940’s and 1950’s. Later, the University of California at Davis further went in to the research program of developing a perennial variety of wheat. These research initiatives in the development of a perennial variety of wheat were continued by researchers at the Land Institute in Salina, Kansas and at Washington State University.

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In recent years, owing to the advancement in technology, these researches have attained more sophistication. With the high-throughput gene-sequencing machines it became more affordable to identify genetic traits. As the development of a perennial variety of wheat has become possible, researches are in the study of evolving a variety which is high-yielding as well as resistant to pest, heat and draught.  It may take years of study and trail before the perennial variety of wheat is available to the farmers for cultivation. Cultivating the perennial variety of wheat will enrich the soil. The plant will grow strong for several years and sustain soil fertility and prevent soil erosion. During the periods in between annual harvest and the beginning of the next farming session, the field can be used to graze livestock and that will further enrich the soil.

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With the success of perennial wheat, the problem of food shortage could be solved to a great extent in many parts of the world. Farming will become more viable and profitable in many societies. Emboldened by the success in perennial wheat research, researchers at the Land Institute have begun other similar researches for sorghum and sunflowers. Asian researchers are in the process of developing a perennial variety of rice. The multiple successes in the perennial varieties of wheat and other cereals have the potential to eradicate the problem of food shortage from the world.

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