For Drawing Carbon Down, Perennial Grains
Move over, Quinoa.
Agriculture is responsible for 70 percent of global freshwater consumption, in large part due to our prevailing agricultural model based on monoculture of annual crops. This strategy requires annual tilling, which damages soil health and lowers its water absorption capacity. Annual crops also have more feeble root systems, which are more water-intensive because they are less capable of drawing water from existing moisture in the soil.
Switching to perennial crops that do not require annual replanting or tilling would solve these problems, but industrial agriculture is deeply entrenched. Luckily, decades of perennial crop research has led to some promising innovations, including Kernza, a perennial wheatgrass developed by the Land Institute. Plovgh (pronounced “plow”) is a perennial grain company that the Land Institute has partnered with to commercialize Kernza. So far, they have had great success. Patagonia Provisionswas the first to take a product using Kernza to market, with its beer, called Long Root Ale. Other Kernza products have hit the market since, including a Kernza pasta, but the next big step is the 2019 launch of Kernza-based General Mills products under the Cascadian Farm brand.