Development of perennial cereals

Last changed: 02 July 2021
A field with barley-like plants, a red house in the background, photo.

Cereal grain crops that are perennial, i.e. plants that grow and give yield for several years at the same place and does not require to be sowed each season, are potentially novel crops that could have a range of environmental and economic benefits. For Sweden and other cold temperate regions we are focusing on two candidates, perennial barley and the perennial relative of wheat Thinopyrum intermedium (intermediate wheatgrass, Kernza®).

You can learn more about our research at Vetenskapens värld - Framtidens mat | SVT Play and at Forskare: “Flerårigt vete kan rädda jordbruket” | SVT Nyheter

Perennial barley

Domestication of perennial relatives of barley was initiated by my research group. As a first step, we evaluated the survival and quantitative traits of a large set of 17 perennial species in the genus Hordeum during four growing seasons 2013-2016 in farmer fields. We identified H. bulbosum as the best candidate species and in 2017 we started a domestication program based on a diverse set of accessions of H. bulbosum.

Thinopyrum intermedium and hybrid wheats

Since 2013 we have in our research group cultivated T. intermedium infarmers’ fields to evaluate the potential for survival and regrowth in central Sweden. Based on these studies and our evaluation of hybrids between wheat and wild perennial Thinopyrum, we selected T. intermedium as the candidate species for development of perennial wheat for cultivation in Sweden. In 2018, we established populations with different geographical and genetic origin and initiated a breeding program of T. intermedium for cultivation in Sweden and other cold climate regions.


The perennial cereal research is carried out in close collaboration with the researchers Mohammad Sameri and Per-Olof Lundquist at the department.

The development of perennial cereal grains is a long-term commitment and the breeding process benefits strongly from breeding in various environments. We are therefore collaborating with an international group of researchers at The Land Institute, Kansas, USA, University of Minnesota, University of Kansas, and University of Manitoba, Canada. Collaborators in Sweden for promoting perennial crops are Lennart Olsson, Lund University Center for Sustainability Studies, Lund, and Linda-Maria Demidova Mårtensson.

Our research group together with our collaborators in Sweden will help building a new international research network – New Roots International – with the aim of promoting research, development and policies for a perennial revolution in agriculture. The Swedish consortium will be one of six institutional pillars, coordinated by The Land Institute in Salina, Kansas, USA.

You can read more about the New Roots International at and at



AguaAgri program funded by the Swedish Research Council Formas, Lantmännen Research Foundation and the Swedish Foundation for Strategic Environmental Research (Mistra), Formas, Axfoundation for Sustainable Development, Ekhaga Foundation.


A woman sitting in a field, holding a tuft of grass, photo.Anna Westerbergh

Associated Professor
Department of Plant Biology, SLU
Telephone: +46 (0)18-67 33 40