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Researchers

Developing crops for a diverse perennial future

Research on intermediate wheatgrass and Kernza® stretches the imagination, covering carbon sequestration, plant breeding, market development, food science, agroecology, sustainable supply chains, social learning, and more. It spans the globe with more than 20 partner organizations from eight countries. Research is focused on helping make Kernza® grain the most reliable, sustainable, and exciting product available.

Kernza® research on the leading edge

  • Improving our understanding of soil carbon and microbial communities
  • Using genomic selection to accelerate the domestication of intermediate wheatgrass
  • Discovering the benefits of Kernza® antioxidants in food products
  • Working with growers to improve yields and get grain to market, sustainably

Joining the Researcher Network

How can you get involved in Kernza® research?

If you are a researcher, you can submit an inquiry explaining your research and interest here.

If you are a grower who would like to work with a researcher, please contact a researcher near you.

What are the challenges to scaling production?

Researchers have found that yields on research plots are more than double the yields on production-scale plantings. They are working to discover the right mixture of agronomic practices, germplasm, and environmental conditions that can consistenly bring Kernza® perennial grain to market.

Research Updates and Findings

Ecosystem Services

Services such as soil protection, carbon sequestration, and water purification are taken for granted when ecosystems provide them for free. In contrast, row crop agriculture has received growing recognition as a problematic source of ecosystem disservices such as soil erosion, nutrient leakage, weed establishment, loss of soil organic matter, agrochemical and fossil fuel dependence. There now exists the opportunity to develop agroecosystems that function more like natural grasslands and thus are expected to recapture many of the ecosystem services that grasslands originally provided. Learn more here.

Plant Breeding and Genetics

The Land Institute’s breeding program for intermediate wheatgrass began in 2003, guided by Dr. Lee DeHaan. Multiple rounds of selecting and intermating the best plants based on their yield, seed size, disease resistance, and other traits have resulted in improved populations and new varieties of intermediate wheatgrass that are currently being grown, evaluated, and further improved at The Land and by collaborators in diverse environments. Today, four full breeding programs are running: the foundational program at The Land Institute and programs at the University of Minnesota, University of Manitoba, and USDA-ARS at Utah State University.

Agroecology

Experiments to optimize conditions for growing intermediate wheatgrass are underway. Understanding the crop’s response to different row spacing, grazing, and nitrogen additions delivered by fertilizers or legume intercrops are just a few of our goals.

Food Science

Research characterizing quality traits (starch composition, gluten protein profiles, dietary fiber content, antioxidants) and methods of storage, processing, and food product development (flour, flour blends, whole grain products, malt, and baked goods) is underway.

Publications

For the latest research publications related to Kernza® perennial grain, please visit The Land Institute’s research publications page here.

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Policies and Programs Supporting Perennial Farming Systems to Protect Drinking Water Sources in Minnesota

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Cleaning & Dehulling Kernza®