Seeding a sustainable future
The Durango Herald, a Colorado-based news outlet, released an article detailing the promise of perennial grains in helping growers to adapt to an arid climate and a low-water future in the Colorado River Basin. The Herald examines the use of two perennials, Kernza® and sainfoin, on the Ute Mountain Ute Farm and Ranch to reduce agricultural water consumption during the state’s 23rd year of a “historic mega-drought.”
“Half the field, just 23 acres, is planted with sainfoin, a forage legume for animals. The other half bears Kernza, the trademark name of an intermediate perennial wheatgrass developed by the Land Institute in Salina, Kansas. Those delicate sprouts are an experiment on every level, says the farm’s general manager, Simon Martinez. But they hold the promise of water reduction, increased drought resiliency, and the opportunity to be on the cutting edge of adaptation to the changing climate. With the farm’s full water allocation – 24,500 acre-feet – flowing down the canal from McPhee Reservoir, this year was the time to test out these two new drought-resistant crops.”
The article also examines the forage potential of Kernza and sainfoin as possible alternatives to the more water-intensive alfalfa, a perennial legume that consumes around 37% of all water from the Colorado River Basin in a given year.
“The latter (sainfoin) is valued as forage for its no-bloat properties, decent nutritional value, and enormous water savings – 50% compared with alfalfa. If all goes well, Martinez said he also plans to ramp up Kernza planting from 23 acres to 150 or 200 acres.
*Photo Credit: Jerry McBride/Durango Herald