Transforming Agriculture, Perennially

Media Coverage

There’s a unique grain crop for everyone to really root for

Publication: The Star

Author: Owen Roberts

Ever pull a weed, and marvel at the length of its roots?

Some, like dandelions, have tap roots that can reach down as much as two feet. They feel like an anchor when you try yanking them out. And for good reason: among their roles, roots keep plants in place, along with the soil around them.

So imagine plants with roots up to 10 feet long, and the soil structure that support them. That’s stability.

And stability is one of the top reasons prairie farmers are keeping an eye on the development and commercialization of a unique ground moisture-seeking grain crop commercially dubbed Kernza.

It’s been around in some form since its introduction here from Eurasia in the 1940s. It had a low profile until some 40 years later, when environmentally minded researchers identified its sustainability virtues.

Here’s what they found. Kernza plants have roots that go far deeper into the soil than anything prairie farmers presently grow. In doing so, they seek and find water reserves that would elude other crops on the often-dry land.

As well, it’s a perennial crop. Just like the perennials in your garden (think hostas), Kernza needs to be seeded just once. Then, it’s there for good, providing ground cover year round, keeping soil stable below and above ground so it doesn’t erode into nearby waterways.

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