Farmers get guidance on growing new perennial grains
While most industrial grain crops are annuals that must be replanted every year, a new perennial grain called Kernza® has hit the markets with growing interest from restaurants, bakeries and brewers.
Growing grain from newly developed perennial plants that can last many years in the field improves soil health, and reduces fertilizer and pesticide use, and agricultural runoff. Annual grain production often involves tilling the soil, which destroys beneficial soil microbes and leeches nutrients into waterways.
Though researchers have been experimenting with perennial grains for a long time, interest has increased in the last few decades due to the ecosystem services they provide.
Kernza, a domesticated version of intermediate wheatgrass, has the drawback of low yields and small grains. While breeders work to increase grain sizes and yields, farmers must also learn how to use these new grains in their crop rotations for optimal effect.