Could Kernza become a perennial alternative?
Every year since the 1870s, when turkey red wheat was brought to the Kansas plains, farmers have planted a wheat crop, harvested it, then planted it again in the fall.
But that annual farming cycle could change for some farmers if a close perennial cousin takes hold.
Not that Kernza, as it is called, has gained much ground in the Midwest. At least, not yet. About 700 acres of the intermediate wheatgrass was grown this year. But Lee DeHaan, the lead scientist developing the crop at the Salina, Kansas-based Land Institute, sees it as a crop for the regenerative agriculture movement.
The deep-rooted plant builds soil health, curbs water runoff, sequesters carbon and enhances wildlife habitat.