In a world-first, trials are currently underway at Cowra and Wagga Wagga to determine whether perennial wheat would be a beneficial grazing crop for sheep.
The trials are a joint project between the NSW DPI and MLA and will consider the perennial cereal's affect on sheep production and meat quality, bringing in sensory panels to taste-test the lamb.
NSW DPI Senior Research Scientist, Richard Hayes said they fed 48 lambs, twice-daily, a diet of either perennial wheat forage by itself, perennial wheat forage mixed in with lucerne or the control, grazing wheat forage.
"We fed them for four to five weeks and measured livestock performance and health because we thought there might be health benefits as well," Mr Hayes said.
"We then sent those sheep to slaughter and measured a whole range of carcase traits."
He explained that the final stage of the trial was to bring in the consumers to see what the lamb grazed on perennial wheat tasted like.
Could the consumer testers taste a difference?
"Each panel member is given nine samples and they're asked to comment on its taste, tenderness and juiciness and just generally whether they like it," Mr Hayes said.
"We're seeing if they can perceive any difference."
Mr Hayes said they hoped to collate the results from each stage of the livestock trial by the end of the year.
"We think perennial cereals would add a lot of value to the farming system, a more sustainable farming system and lower risk cropping system," Mr Hayes said.
"The perennial crop saves you having to re-sow year after year and automatically that gives you some versatility in your system and some risk management, you're not waiting for autumn rain to establish your crop each year."
Mr Hayes said perennial crops could also have better access to resources like minerals and water because they had more time to establish a root system.
He explained the perennial wheat project will run for another three years and the results of this study would determine the next experiment.