How Perennial ‘Super-Wheat’ Could Save the Planet
The formula that American farmers employ to sustain the foundation of the nation’s food system is simple and time-honored—plow then plant, and in three months, harvest and sell.
Milk flows, bacon sizzles, and 300 million people and the nation’s livestock dine.
However, cracks in the base are appearing, and the problems are pretty clear. For three months, America’s heartland is covered with life, but for the next nine, the land sits dormant and barren. It doesn’t take Squanto to recognize the inefficiency. Without root systems holding soil in place, the lifeless earth is subject to erosion—around ten million acres of Iowa farmland has washed into the Gulf of Mexico over the last ten years.
Current practices also drain the soil’s nutrients while crops are drenched with chemicals that pollute fresh water. The whole process is fueled by petroleum, and agriculture’s huge role in global warming is clear.
With the world’s population on pace to break ten billion around the end of century, the current agriculture system is unsustainable.
And that’s why Kernza—a wild, perennial wheatgrass native to the Fertile Crescent—is viewed as sort of an agricultural holy grail. The crop is under domestication in the US and can potentially do more than patch the cracks. It provides an entirely new, stronger, more sustainable foundation for the American food system. …