(Vasey) Fassett ex I. M. Johnst.
Distichlis palmeri (Palmer's grass), or nipa grass, is a saltgrass of the family Poaceae, grows in the Sonoran desert of Western Mexico, and produces a grain with some similarities to wheat. Originally a major food source of the Cocopah tribe in the western United States, it was thought to be extinct. A search for remaining plants was successful, and was followed by a breeding program that increased yield from 5kg/Ha to 2000kg/Ha. The grain is currently also being bred for commercial use in Australia. It is drought resistant and can absorb seawater. As a halophyte, the salt it absorbs is excreted from specialised cells (which are not stomata) on the leaf surface.
The United Nations Environment Report (2006) says of the plant: "It is a strong candidate for a major global food crop and could become this desert's greatest gift to the world." Some varieties of D. palmeri have been the subjects of US patents.
Notes and references
- "NyPa Wild Wheat". NyPa Australia Ltd. Retrieved 2012-09-09.
- Edward P. Glenn, J. Jed Brown and James W. O’Leary (August 1998). "Irrigating Crops with Seawater" (PDF). Scientific American. Retrieved 2006-12-26.
- Raven, Peter H. (2000). Biologie Végétale (in French). DeBoek Université. ISBN 2-7445-0102-6.
- US 4767887 A variety, Yensen 1a, of Distichlis palmeri, characterized by vigorous growth in salty soils, high grain yield and ideal form for harvest, and for human consumption.
- US 4767889 A grain variety, Yensen 2a, of Distichlis palmeri, which are characterized by vigorous growth in salty soils, high grain yield and ideal form for harvest. This grain variety has excellent taste qualities.