KERNZA: The Break­through Grain

Better Nutrition - - 7 WAYS -

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.

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