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ARS Home » Midwest Area » St. Paul, Minnesota » Plant Science Research » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #406562

Research Project: Genetic Improvement and Cropping Systems of Alfalfa for Livestock Utilization, Environmental Protection and Soil Health

Location: Plant Science Research

Title: Kernza-Intermediate Wheatgrass: A dual use perennial grain and forage crop

item Samac, Deborah - Debby

Submitted to: Forage Focus
Publication Type: Trade Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 7/27/2023
Publication Date: 8/1/2023
Citation: Samac, D.A. 2023. Kernza-Intermediate Wheatgrass: A dual use perennial grain and forage crop. Forage Focus. (August 2023): 3-4.

Interpretive Summary:

Technical Abstract: Intermediate wheatgrass (IWG) is a perennial cool season grass that has been grown widely across the U.S. and Canada as a forage crop. Starting in the 1980s it was selected for domestication as a potential perennial grain crop because the edible seeds can be used to augment or replace wheat in baked goods, and augment barley and rye in malting for beer and whiskey production. It is attractive as a component of U.S. agriculture because the large root system is expected to increase soil carbon and reduce nutrient leaching. Dual use of IWG as both a grain and forage crop reduces the financial risk in Kernza grain production and maximizes net economic return. To help integrate IWG and Kernza production into livestock production systems across the U.S., scientists with the USDA Agricultural Research Service will conduct coordinated field trials in nine states (Arkansas, Colorado, Idaho, Minnesota, Pennsylvania, Utah, Washington, Wisconsin, and Wyoming). A common set of measurements will be collected from field trials at all sites to support regionally specific recommendations and permit cross-site comparisons on grain and forage yields, nutrient management needs, water requirements, and potential for increasing carbon sequestration and building soil health. In St. Paul, scientists in the Plant Science Research Unit are conducting trials to determine whether Kernza improves soil carbon sequestration or reduces greenhouse gas emissions compared to conventional crops. They will also fill the gap in data on forage nutritive value and evaluate the range in major nutritional characteristics, including its potential in total mixed dairy rations. Data from these trials will be combined to support broader analyses and enterprise modeling to quantify the impact of IWG and Kernza on farm productivity, environmental outcomes, and local markets.