Perennial Promise: Intermediate wheatgrass returns fields to grass-like prairies
MADISON, Minn. – “There was only the enormous, empty prairie, with grasses blowing in waves of light and shadow across it, and the great blue sky above it…” From Little House on the Prairie, By Laura Ingalls Wilder.
A group of farm visionaries hopes to return a portion of the Great Plains to its former vegetation-covered glory through planting perennial crops.
Guided by well-known Lac qui Parle County farmer and leader Carmen Fernholz, a dozen or more organizations are asking farmers to consider planting Kernza®, the first commercially viable perennial grain available in the United States.
Many people have heard of Kernza but may be unaware that it is the trademark name of intermediate wheatgrass – a plant originating in Europe. The trademark is owned and managed by The Land Institute in Salina, Kan.
A Kernza Field Day was held on July 8, 2021, at the Fernholzes’ farm. Along with information on Kernza, attendees learned about a new grower cooperative that is taking shape – Perennial Promise Growers Cooperative.
The field day, said Fernholz, was “to inform both growers and buyers about the grain itself, and how its ecosystem services work for soil and water protection, and how it can become a third crop in a more robust crop rotation.”
Additional Kernza field days were held:
July 17, Cold Spring, Minn. – The Rocori FFA Chapter, in partnership with the Stearns County Soil and Water Conservation District and the Agricultural Utilization Research Institute, hosted a tour of their Kernza test plot.
July 19, St. Paul, Minn. – Minnesota legislators and agency leads joined researchers for an invite-only field day at the University of Minnesota campus.
July 22, St. Peter, Minn. – Kernza field day at the Ben Penner Farm.
July 27, Buffalo, Minn. – Kernza field day at the Stan Vander Kooi Farm.
July 28, Goodhue, Minn. – Kernza field day at the Kaleb and Angie Anderson Farm.
Aug. 19, Rosholt, Minn. – Kernza field day hosted by the Stearns Soil and Water Conservation District manager, Dennis Fuchs, and Pope Soil and Water Conservation District manager, Holly Kovarik.