Kernza research addresses yields
There’s promise in ongoing research for Kernza – perennial intermediate wheatgrass trademarked and named by The Land Institute. But it’s also a work in progress.
Kernza research was awarded a grant in 2020 by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture. The research is supported by the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative’s Sustainable Agricultural Systems Coordinated Agricultural Program.
There’s interest in the crop because it can be grown for both grain and forage with fewer input requirements than other row crops. It contributes ecosystem services such as increasing carbon sequestration while also helping to reduce soil and water erosion, and soil-nitrate leaching.
Jake Jungers, assistant professor in agronomy and plant genetics at the University of Minnesota, is the principal investigator in the project. Valentin Picasso, an associate professor of agronomy at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, is a co-investigator on the project in Wisconsin.
Picasso has recently been studying optimal planting time for Kernza in southern Wisconsin. He and his colleagues have been evaluating the crop at the UW-Arlington Agricultural Research Station and the UW-Lancaster Agricultural Research Station. They’ve also been working with a few farmers.
The UW-Madison studies have shown that Kernza grain yields are generally best in the first year of production when the crop is planted before Sept. 15 – yielding between 500 and 800 pounds per acre at test locations. Yields of the perennial crop declined thereafter, with second-year and third-year yields between just 40 percent and 60 percent of the first-year production. But because a pound of the grain sells for $1, it can still be a viable feedstuff, Picasso said.