Food production is dependent on the availability of clean water. Long-rooted perennial grains can absorb excess fertilizer that would otherwise runoff fields to pollute waterways or infiltrate into community water sources. Perennial grain crops can also more effectively utilize water stored in soils to reduce agricultural water use, which is of particular interest in arid environments where water is scarce.
According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), nitrate, which stems from fertilizer use, is the most prevalent chemical pollutant in groundwater aquifers around the globe. In the US specifically, agriculture is the primary source of pollution impacting the nation’s rivers and streams. State and federal governments in the US have also recognized the need to conserve water through adaptive agricultural practices, with farmers and ranchers in the Colorado River Basin tasked with conserving two to four million acre-feet of water, which is less than one-third of what they currently depend on to produce food.
Perennial grain production can provide much-needed relief in the Mississippi and Colorado River Basins. A Minnesota study revealed that Kernza absorbed 77 to 96% more harmful nitrate pollution than corn and soy. In the Colorado River Basin, perennial grain trials are studying the ability of these crops to conserve water and combat a historic drought while supporting agricultural production.
Learn more about the use of perennial grains as a tool to combat water pollution and drought.