The Land Institute is developing perennial crops

Kernza roots vs mass agriculture wheat roots

Perennial crops have huge advantages over annual crops. They are much better for the soil and planet. The Land Institute in Kansas is developing new crop perennials, including wheat, sorghum, wheatgrass, oilseeds, and legumes.

Kernza, a perennial grain, was developed by The Institute. Jordan Fink @buildsoil tweeted about the difference between it and monoculture wheat. He says:

“This image is by Jim Richardson and it is showing Kernza: a perennial grain developed by the Land Institute, an incredible project that is trying to make food grains that live like prairie grasses.”

“Perennial grasses can live 500 years and they pump carbon into the soil to feed soil microbes. They co-evolved with large herds of grazing animals which help cycle their biomass (with the help of dung beetles) and with proper planning, cows can do that same work…”

The Institute is working on growing perennials in polycultures. This reduces the effects of industrial agriculture and will produce plentiful crops as well.

Perennial plants do not have to be reseeded or replanted every year, so they do not require annual plowing or herbicide applications to establish.

Perennial crops are robust; they protect soil from erosion and improve soil structure. They increase ecosystem nutrient retention, carbon sequestration, and water infiltration, and can contribute to climate change adaptation and mitigation. Overall, they help ensure food and water security over the long term.

Kernza compared to wheat in fields
Kernza on the right, wheat on the left.

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