Perennial agriculture has the potential to transform US agriculture by improving sustainability and prosperity. The Land Institute is part of a multi-state coalition of researchers, farmers, educators, industry leaders, policy experts, and climate scientists recently awarded a 5-year, $10 million grant through USDA NIFA’s Agriculture and Food Research Initiative’s Sustainable Agricultural Systems program to scale the research, production, awareness and commercialization of KernzaⓇ.
The Land Institute provides joint leadership to the project with the University of Minnesota who serves as the award recipient and home institution for the project. A portion of project funds will be managed directly by TLI and will help fund new project related positions and activities. This grant and the long-term collaborative relationship with University of Minnesota is a great example of the critical role TLI has and will continue to play to expand the development of perennial grains on a global scale. From providing original seeds (germplasm) to launch new breeding programs, to collaborating on grant funding opportunities like this, TLI is igniting the work required to realize our perennial vision.
The project, titled Developing and Deploying a Perennial Grain Crop Enterprise to Improve Environmental Quality and Rural Prosperity, seeks to transform U.S. agriculture production by developing the blueprint for systems to shift from annual row crop production that requires tilling and planting every year to perennial production. By building the support system necessary to successfully increase Kernza acres across the US agricultural landscape, this project aims to improve the environmental sustainability of food production and demonstrate the viability of new perennial crops as real economic opportunities for farmers and rural communities. This project will be led by six teams composed of researchers, industry leaders, farmers, educators, and policy makers from 10 universities and 24 non-profit and farm and food organizations. The work will be both regional and national as the organizations work in their regions sharing, integrating and collaborating across objectives and teams.
The project has six objectives:
- Advance germplasm and trait evaluation – results will include new Kernza cultivars that yield more grain and enhance critical ecosystem services.
- Enhance agronomic and on farm knowledge – results will include best management practices for advising growers on Kernza agronomic production.
- Improve environmental quality – Kernza’s deep root system has multiple environmental benefits—including reducing nitrate leaching and runoff, soil erosion, tillage requirements and overall agricultural inputs.
- Engage education, extension, and policy – this project aims to improve the environmental sustainability of food production and demonstrate the viability of new perennial cropping systems as real economic opportunities for farmers and rural communities.
- Develop supply chains and economic drivers – results will include increased market demand for integrating Kernza into food and co-product markets.
- Intentional integration – strong project focus on whole systems thinking acknowledges that perennial crops must be coupled with supportive policies, education and behavior change, market pull, and a reexamination of equity and emphasis on community-driven regionalized economic models to truly activate transformative change.
The KernzaⓇCAP project officially launched on September 1st. More information on KernzaⓇ, the project partners, updates and reports on research findings, additional press materials, and field day demonstration information can be found on kernza.org/kernzacap.