Williston Research Extension Center Seeks to Analyze Kernza Performance in Western North Dakota
After four decades of breeding and testing, The Land Institute, Salina, KS, has introduced its first commercial grain, a trademarked variety called Kernza. Kernza is in the early stages of commercialization and has been bred intensively for increased seed yield and size for the past 15 years.
Dr. Clair Keene, NDSU Williston Research Extension Center Area Extension Specialist/Cropping System, has been conducting research on Kernza for the past two years. “I currently have a variety trial at the Williston Research Extension Center looking at Kernza lines from the Land Institute and the University of Minnesota. I want to learn how the lines do in the North Dakota environment,” said Keene.
Kernza originates from forage grass, called intermediate wheatgrass (Thinopyrum intermedium). Kernza currently produces seeds that are only about a quarter the size of conventional wheat. So the Land Institute is aiming to develop Kernza varieties that produce larger seeds.
Kernza roots can extend over 10 feet beneath the soil surface, which is more than twice the depth of an annual wheat root. Kernza’s deep roots hold soil in place, reducing erosion, and allowing exploration farther down in the soil profile.