Transforming Agriculture, Perennially

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Farmers in Colorado Must Use Less Water – Can Kernza Help?

Publication: Colorado Sun

Author: Chris Outcalt

A new article from the Colorado Sun reports on a novel research collaboration in the Colorado River Basin with farmers, Colorado State University, The Nature Conservancy, Trout Unlimted, and The Land Institute testing the viability of drought-tolerant Kernza perennial grain.

Farmers in the central Plains states have been growing Kernza (intermediate wheatgrass) for decades, primarily as a high-quality forage, according to Tessa Peters, Director of Crop Stewardship at The Land Institute. However, the conditions in Colorado are quite different — different soil, elevation, and growing seasons. Still, it’s no wonder there’s interest, Peters said.

“We all know the Colorado River Basin is experiencing significant reductions in the water available for agriculture and human populations downstream,” she said. “And so one thing of interest for these crops in Colorado is that there’s the potential that they will need less irrigation.” But, she added, “It’s not magic, but it’s pretty drought tolerant and produces high-quality forage and hay for cattle.”

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