Kernza: The Perennial Grain that can help our planet

I’ve always been interested in growing things and agricultural topics. My grandparents had a small farm in Texas and it was a place of wonder for me as a child. But farming can be a difficult, even tragic, way of life also. My ancestors in Oklahoma suffered greatly in the ecological disaster know as the Dust Bowl. At least they had relatives in Texas to take them in. Others were not so lucky, and were forced to migrate, often to California, where they were subjected to more suffering and discrimination. Many famines seem to follow this pattern: Ecological or other disaster, migration to a new area that doesn’t want them, a rise in rightwing extremism and discrimination.

Anyway, I had read about the quest to develop perennial grains to promote sustainable agriculture. What do perennials crops offer?

Perennial agriculture is the solution to many challenges we face from grain production today. Perennials are plants that can be left in the field to return for several years without the annual tilling that damages topsoil and leads to erosion and nutrient losses. Perennials develop a deep root system that helps sequester carbon, filter water, and keep continuous living cover on the land. Their ecosystem services offer contrast to the greenhouse gas-intensive practices of modern annual agriculture. They produce nutritious food crops while protecting natural resources

So I was please to see that one perennial grain, kernza, is now commercially available. (I bought this cereal at Whole Foods.) Kernza is definitely a work in progress by plant scientists, but the results so far are very tasty!

Learn about The Land Institute and perennial crops in general.

Learn about kernza grain here:

Consider signing up for their mailing list.

Agriculture affects us all and we only have one planet.


Perennial crops are often better than annual crops because they can bind more organic matter to the soil and improve beneficial life in the soil. They are not a silver bullet that solves all problems but an improvement. Much depends on the soil type and how the crop is cultivated, for example:
is there crop rotation, what is the rotation time and does it involve tillage?
is there a need to use chemicals against pest, fungi and unwanted plants?
what is the annual yield per hectare?
what is the proportion of plant biomass taken away from the plot during the harvest?

There are ongoing experiments on how the cultivation of agricultural fields with grass affects the amount of carbon in the soil and soil structure. Even when the perennial grass species is the same, there are huge differences depending on the cultivation practices.

Nothing is a silver bullet, but this is a step in the right direction. Most of your points are addressed in the linked articles.

Here’s an interesting story about the Episcopals and grains that I thought you might also like @beaglelady:

1 Like

This topic was automatically closed 6 days after the last reply. New replies are no longer allowed.

“Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” -Colossians 4:6

This is a place for gracious dialogue about science and faith. Please read our FAQ/Guidelines before posting.