USU-Perigee is a dwarf red spring wheat that is a hybrid of a high-yield early tall wheat (USU-Apogee) and a low-yield, extremely short wheat that has poor agronomic characteristics. USU-Perigee was selected for its extremely short height (≈0.3 m) and high yield — characteristics that make it suitable for growth in confined spaces in controlled environments. Other desirable characteristics include rapid development and resistance to a leaf-tip necrosis, associated with calcium deficiency, that occurs in other wheat cultivars under rapid-growth conditions (particularly, continuous light).

Heads emerge after only 21 days of growth in continuous light at a constant temperature of 25 °C. In tests, USU-Perigee was found to outyield other full dwarf (defined as <0.4 m tall) wheat cultivars: The yield advantage at a constant temperature of 23 °C was found to be about 30 percent. Originally intended as a candidate food crop to be grown aboard spacecraft on long missions, this cultivar could also be grown in terrestrial growth chambers and could be useful for plant-physiology and -pathology studies.

This work was done by Bruce Bugbee of Utah State University for Johnson Space Center. For more information, see www.usu.edu/cpl/Progression.pdf. MSC-24200-1

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