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Field Notes

Kernza® Perennial Grain Yields are Increasing

Kernza® Grain yields increase over cycles of selection

Five cycles of selecting and breeding the best intermediate wheatgrass plants at The Land Institute increased yield of Kernza® perennial grain – the weight of seed per area of land – 145%. Researcher Lee DeHaan’s charted figures show a steady rise over the generations. He hopes to see yield rise another 100 percent over the next 10 years. The average weight per seed has risen by half. Yield combines that with a rising number of seeds. The amount of free threshing seed – those that don’t demand special dehulling machinery after harvest – rose from under a fourth to more than a half over the five breeding cycles. The cycles entailed growing and selecting large numbers of the best candidates from up to 20,000 mature plants in the field. DeHaan now uses genomic selection, analyzing the DNA of seedlings and selecting the best 100. He also no longer evaluates improvement generation by generation, but grows different generations side by side, and will test candidates to produce finished Kernza® varieties.