KERNZA: The Breakthrough Grain
A new type of grain developed by The Land Institute, a nonprofit research organization that designs alternatives to destructive farming techniques, Kernza can help reverse soil depletion. Traditional grains deplete soil because they are annual plants; seeds must be planted each year and are harvested a few months later, leaving the soil fallow and exposed to erosion, with no food for living organisms. Kernza is a perennial; once planted, it lives for many years, producing an annual grain crop.
Kernza has very deep roots, which grow to about feet in a year. “Those roots are there to take up whatever resources are available and they’re forming a network that holds the soil and prevents erosion all year round,” says Lee De Haan, PhD, lead Kernza scientist at the institute.
“If our growing of grains undermines the system, eventually it will collapse, as historically civilizations that are dependent upon annual grain crops have collapsed as they deplete their soils,” he says. “So we’re trying to have a system that has natural sustainability like natural ecosystems do, by allowing the plant to be one that lives for many years in one place.”
So far, Kernza has been used to make Long Root Ale ( hopworksbeer. com), and farmers have started growing it for grain foods. So you may be seeing Kernza soon, in a store near you.