A few days ago we posted in Brainfood a link to the paper “Toward a taxonomic definition of perennial wheat: a new species ×Tritipyrum aaseae described,” together with the comment that it wasn’t clear to us why naming a new species was necessary. Colin Curwen-McAdams, one of the authors, has now enlightened us, by email.
As one of the authors of the paper mentioned today, “Toward a taxonomic definition of perennial wheat: a new species xTritipyrum aaseae described,” I thought I might respond to the comment about why it is necessary to name this combination as a new species. People have been trying to develop perennial grain crops through hybridization of wheat and its wild relatives for nearly 100 years, but no one has taken the time to recognize the combinations through nomenclature. These combinations are stable and contain genomes from both parents and so are no longer either wheat or wheatgrass. Scientific names allow researchers to communicate, literature to be organized and help structure our thinking about the relationships among living things. Names are also important in this case because the goal is development of a new crop type which requires specific and colloquial ways of referring to it. Triticale (xTriticosecale) is a corollary example, a hybrid of wheat and rye combining genomes from both that now exists as a new crop. The aim of the paper was to outline how having a name might aid in developing these new crops through hybridization, and move thinking away from ‘perennial wheat’ and towards xTritipyrum, an undefined crop full of potential. Thank you for recognizing our work, always happy to discuss further, all the best, Colin.
Many thanks, Colin. Is not a possible counter-argument that such a move is somewhat premature (xTritipyrum is not yet an established crops), and might discourage other groups from making further crosses between the two parents?