Growth, development, and biomass partitioning of the perennial grain crop Thinopyrum intermedium

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Intermediate wheatgrass (Thinopyrum intermedium) is a perennial grass that is being domesticated and improved for use as a grain crop. As a perennial grain crop, intermediate wheatgrass has the potential to produce economically viable, food-grade grain while providing environmental benefits such as reduced erosion and nitrate leaching. To guide agronomic activities for this new crop, more information on intermediate wheatgrass growth and development is needed. We sampled plants every 3–5 days throughout the growing season at three environments to measure growth and development in response to accumulating growing degree days (GDD). A numerical growth index was used to quantify morphological development. Growth index, plant height, biomass, height of the tallest node, and biomass partitioning to leaf, stem, and inflorescence were modelled as a function of GDD. We predicted dates (in GDD and day of the year) for critical morphological events as they relate to grain crop production using model equations. The fraction of total biomass allocated to leaves decreased and stems increased in response to GDD, and both components represented equal proportions of aboveground biomass at plant maturity. Growth and development was similar across environments, but variation in yield components (e.g., 50 seed weight, seed mass inflorescence−1) was observed. Our results provide the first quantification of growth and development of intermediate wheatgrass, and have application to growers seeking to determine optimal timing of agronomic practices, as well as crop modellers working to integrate new crops into simulation models. As intermediate wheatgrass expands as a perennial grain crop, growth and development should be measured in a broader range of temperature and precipitation conditions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)346-354
Number of pages9
JournalAnnals of Applied Biology
Issue number3
StatePublished - May 2018

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We thank the Minnesota Turf Seed Council and the Minnesota Department of Agriculture for support through the Forever Green Initiative. This work was also supported by The Perennial Agriculture Project, a joint project of The Malone Family Land Preservation Foundation and The Land Institute. The authors have no conflict of interest to declare.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2018 Association of Applied Biologists


  • Agronomy
  • crop ecology
  • crop science
  • physiology


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