New wheat grass is green in more ways than one

Updated: Sep. 20, 2019 at 5:51 PM CDT
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ST. PETER, Minn. (KEYC) — A new intermediate wheat grass, a first of its kind perennial crop, that’s been in the works for decades is hitting the soil and is green in more ways than one.

The new wheat grass, known as kernza, was developed by the Land Institute in Salina, Kansas, and the University of Minnesota through their Forever Green Initiative that has a mission to develop crops that don’t need to be planted annually.

The crops, such as kernza, put down deep roots over the course of time and prevents soil runoff, keeps nitrate from escaping through drainage water and puts carbon from the atmosphere into the ground.

“Farmers growing kernza right now, it represents a great step forward, both scientifically with the crop itself, but also farmers who want to engage with environmental issues and I think there are many benefits that we can’t really map out right now or quantify both on a societal level and a community, likely that will play out over time,” said Ben Penner of Ben Penner Farms, which grows organic, whole grain wheat flour.

Kernza is a multi-use crop that acts as a forage, livestock feed and new food for human consumption.

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