Transforming Agriculture, Perennially

Category: Technician and Resident Takeovers

Join a virtual tour through the 206-acres of The Land Institute’s Marty Bender Nature Area, where we welcome visitors and invite local community members to explore a nearly three mile trail system through prairie and woods along the Smoky Hill River in traditional Kaw Nation homelands. Several scientific research plots are located on site. Additional features include art installations, plant and wildlife viewing, a tree swing and picnic area, scenic overlooks of the river and Salina region, and a community book share box.

Summer and harvest season are a beautiful time of the year in Kansas. Abbi Han, a research resident in our Perennial Legumes program, takes us on a mini tour of The Land Institute’s vernalization chamber. This chamber allows our researchers to create an artificial winter in order to accelerate and induce the flowering of plants in our breeding programs. Right now, it is home to several hundred Kernza® and Kura clover plants.

This tour at The Land Institute takes us through the Wauhob Prairie and down to our East Bank research plots. The Wauhob is a prairie remnant perched atop the center of The Land Institute’s campus. The hilltop also serves as an overlook down to a large cluster of research plots where our perennial grain breeding and ecology programs have a number of ongoing research experiments situated along the banks of the Smoky Hill River. The natural beauty and wide open skies of central Kansas are on full display!

Research Resident Alex Griffin at The Land Institute works with our perennial oilseeds and crop protection ecology research programs, and here she takes us through a full day of work ranging from gathering data on select silphium populations in our greenhouses to tending to the Four Sisters plot in our community garden.

Research Resident Abbi Han at The Land Institute focuses her study on the genetics of kura clover, which could provide continuous ground cover and, as a legume, provide nitrogen to other crops it’s grown with. She is also active in managing our Four Sisters plot and employee garden. Here, she walks us through a day in the life of her residency.

Research resident at The Land Institute, Eric Cassetta, who works closely with our Perennial Oilseeds and Crop Protection Genetics programs leads us through a few of the projects and places of his residency.

As the research technician for The Land Institute’s Kernza® program, Marty Christians’ work focuses on the ongoing domestication of this perennial grain. Here, he explains two projects he is currently working on the spring of 2020 to help advance and accelerate the breeding program.

The Land Institute’s Perennial Legumes research technician, Spencer Barriball, brings us deep into TLI’s research plots to show us some of the intermediate wheatgrass + perennial legume intercropping experiments his team is working on. The goals of the perennial legumes research program are to expand agronomic knowledge about these dual-purpose intercroppoing systems (i.e. row spacing, harvest timing, nitrogen balance) that produce grain for humans and forage for livestock and to develop a long-term collaborative domestication strategy to improve sainfoin seed yield and nutritional quality through a combination of breeding, agronomy, food science, and commercialization efforts.

The Land Institute’s Perennial Wheat research technician, Dr. Piyush Labhsetwar, walks us through the journey plant DNA must take in order to be sequenced to accelerate the breeding program. The Perennial Wheat program at TLI creates hybrids made from crossing annual wheat species (including bread and durum wheat) with wheatgrass species with the long-term goal of developing an economically viable perennial wheat variety in the next 10-20 years.

The Land Institute’s Perennial Oilseeds research technician, Sydney Schiffner, walks us through a day in the life of her program. The Perennial Oilseeds team is domesticating Silphium integrifolium, an oilseed crop in the sunflower family, with the goal of having perennial silphium partially replace annual oilseed crops such as sunflower, canola, and soy.

The Land Institute’s Crop Protection Ecology (CPE) research technician, Edy Chérémond, walks us through how the CPE team works to achieve their programmatic goals. The mission of CPE is to determine how different crop management practices synergistic relationships in diverse cropping systems can be employed to successfully increase beneficial insects and manage crop pests in perennial grains.

The Land Institute’s Soil Ecology research technician, James Bowden, braves the Kansas weather to walk us through the research focuses of the program. Working cross-functionally with all of our research programs, the Soil Ecology team at TLI looks at how diverse plantings of our perennial crops can harness ecological processes to supplant the need for commercial inputs like fertilizers and pesticides. By using models of naturally occurring plant communities, TLI researchers believe that previously unattainable levels of ecological intensification are possible with perennial polycultures.

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