Crop Stewardship: Perennial Grains from Promise to Plates
Since our founding 45 years ago, The Land Institute has investigated how to live within ecological limits, exploring alternatives in education, sustainable living, and agriculture, all toward reconciling the human economy with Nature’s economy. Since the 1980s, we have focused on food and how we produce it as a transformative first step in this long-term vision, with diverse perennial grain agriculture as an early proof of concept. Now, rooted in our values, The Land Institute is advancing transdisciplinary research to help bring new perennial grain crops to farms and consumers, ensuring the communities they feed are progressing toward a just, ecospheric future.
Our Crop Stewardship program is critical in moving perennial grains from research to farms to plates by coordinating scientific, political, civic, legal, practical, cultural, and economic knowledge. One of our goals is to inform a movement that puts perennial grain agriculture front and center as a hopeful solution for farms and food systems in a failing model while addressing the climate crisis. This program has three main areas of focus: adoption readiness, scaling, and legitimacy for the comprehensive benefits of perennial grains so they are adopted broadly in culture.
- Identify key achievements that must be reached in the research phase to determine when and how the crops can transition to the farms and dinner tables.
- Collaborate with partners to identify and address gaps and challenges across the commercial supply chain.
- Achieve specific breeding goals to launch agronomic
- Develop a stable seed supply to meet growing demand from farmers and businesses.
- Increase the acres of perennial grains growing on the landscape.
- Foster a learning cycle between researchers and growers that improves and expands effective perennial grain agricultural
- Support farmers with agronomic research networks and technical assistance teams of peer growers, agronomists, and aligned community
- Convene communities and stakeholders to make everything from policies at the national level to recipes at the individual level.
- Mentor students on perennial agriculture policy
- Talk with state and local legislators about perennial
- Provide perennial grain and flour to producers to innovate new products.
Our objective is to deeply understand the market potential for all the perennial grain crops in development at The Land Institute. Crop Stewardship builds knowledge for how each grain crop might move into the supply chain by working with food scientists and producers, eaters, brewers, bakers, and makers. For example, by analyzing the oil, protein, and carbohydrate components of Silphium integrifolium seeds, we can strategize when to enter the crop into the marketplace. Is there a use for silphium seed as a plant-based milk substitute or a protein supplement? Will honey from silphium flowers catalyze new production? Can silphium’s fibrous stems be used to create renewable packaging? Each crop will have a unique stewardship plan that considers its current and future potential.
This year we released the first comprehensive data from Kernza® perennial grain growers with the number of acres growing and the number of new acres planted. Based on this benchmark data, we will create economic and market models to project where the supply of Kernza® will be in the next 5 to 25 years, given breeding yield progress and targets. This data is crucial to supply chain development, helping predict grain supplies and allowing businesses to decide on new product innovations. This data is also critical to policymakers who need to see the progress and future potential of perennial grain agriculture programs they support.
In 2022, we will work with Kernza® licensees and research collaborators to build a business association for all supply chain stakeholders to create a stable market, robust grain supply, and greater consumer knowledge. In the past year alone, many new products made with perennial crops have come to market, including distilled spirits, beers, breads, cookies, cereals, and pastas. You can now make your pancakes with Kernza® perennial grain flour, drizzle honey from perennial silphium on your fruit, or share a beer or spirit containing Kernza® with a friend.
We invite you to be part of this perennial future by funding our work.
Hope, Rooted In Science.