Field-scale trials with Kernza perennial grain provided important data establishing its capacity to limit nitrate leaching below the rooting zone, protecting water quality in Minnesota. Nitrate leaching from fertilizer applied to row crops poses a serious risk to rural communities in Minnesota, especially the Southern and Western parts of the state. Soil water under corn and soy crops can reach nitrate concentrations of 28 parts per million (ppm). That water can move downward and allow nitrate to reach drinking water sources, which are undrinkable at concentrations over 10 ppm.
Communities, including the City of Chatfield and Lincoln and Pipestone Counties, were looking for ways to avoid the health risks and water treatment costs from contamination without taking farmland out of production.
Results from that study show that average nitrate levels in soil water samples collected by lysimeters below the Kernza crop rooting zone ranged from 0 to 0.25 ppm in Chatfield and 0 to 0.14 in Pipestone. There was not a single individual reading over 0.5 ppm. For reference, the EPA’s Maximum Contaminant Level for nitrate is 10 ppm.
Learn more about Kernza’s co-benefits to water quality: