Kernza’s Perennial Promise
BROWNS VALLEY, Minn. (DTN) — With 47 years of research and farm field days behind him at the University of Minnesota, Professor Don Wyse said a field day earlier this month with a group of farmers showing off the prospects of Kernza to food companies, seed dealers and state officials was a capstone event in his work.
“It was the most exciting field day I probably have experienced in my damn career,” Wyse said.
Wyse leads the University of Minnesota’s Forever Green program, focusing on various perennial crops and winter annuals, starting with basic genomics, breeding and agronomics, as well as ecosystem services, food science, commercialization and markets.
“I think for everyone, it was the first day that all of those pieces were laid out in one place, and people were pretty excited about seeing all of those pieces fit together,” Wyse said.
More than 150 people came to the field day near Madison, Minnesota, to learn about Kernza, a perennial wheat grass first developed by the Land Institute in Salina, Kansas. Wes Jackson, who founded the Land Institute, began a breeding program to create a crop that would provide year-round cover and protection against soil erosion on the Kansas plains. But Wyse and other Minnesota researchers have adapted the crop to the Land of 10,000 Lakes and are developing Kernza as a potential strategy to address challenges such as water quality.