Cascadian Farm Invests in Kernza
Kernza is a perennial grain with promising restorative benefits for farms
Cascadian Farm, its and parent company General Mills announced work with The Land Institute (TLI) to help commercialize organic Kernza, a perennial grain (intermediate wheatgrass) and wild relative of annual wheat, whose deep roots show promise to increase soil health, carbon sequestration, water retention and enhance surrounding wildlife habitat. The sweet- and nutty-tasting grain lends itself particularly well as an ingredient for cereal and snacks.
Cascadian Farm has agreed to purchase an initial amount of the perennial grain which allows TLI to arrange with farmers to plant on commercial-scale fields versus the test sized plots currently being grown.
In addition, General Mills approved a $500,000 charitable contribution to the Forever Green Initiative at the University of Minnesota in partnership with The Land Institute, to support advanced research to measure the potential of Kernza to significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions associated with food production, determine best management practices for sustainable production, and increase Kernza yields through breeding.
Since 2014, General Mills has worked alongside The Land Institute and University of Minnesota’s College of Food, Agricultural & Natural Resource Sciences to research the viability of Kernza intermediate wheatgrass as an earth-friendly, more sustainable grain.
Kernza is unique in that its roots grow more than twice as deep (upwards of 10 feet) and are greater in density than current annual wheat roots. A perennial, farmers who produce Kernza don’t need to till and replant the crop every year, minimizing disruption to the soil.
Early research shows Kernza’s long roots may help preserve soil, enhance soil health, and reduce nitrogen movement into ground and surface waters.
Cascadian Farm has reserved an initial amount of Kernza perennial grain seed and plans to plant an acre test plot this fall on the Cascadian Farm home farm next to the Skagit River in Washington. The farm team will closely monitor and research how the grain fares in the unique temperate rainforest ecosystem in partnership with The Land Institute.
Cascadian Farm joined General Mills in 2000 as the company’s first organic brand. Cascadian Farm has a history of leading the company’s corporate sustainability efforts, and was recently one of 50 product brands to endorse Carbon Underground’s guidelines for “Regenerative Agriculture” to further the brand’s commitment to soil health by supporting farming practices that have a positive impact.