The organic grain Kernza could soon come to a field near you thanks to a new arrangement among General Mills, its Cascadian Farm subsidiary and The Land Institute. The sweet- and nutty-tasting grain, a trademarked variety of intermediate wheatgrass, is a relative of annual wheat that goes well in cereals and snacks.
“We believe in the potential of this grain to make a positive ecological impact,” says Carla Vernón, vice president of Cascadian Farm. “This helps us live up to the expectation that our consumers have for Cascadian Farm and continue to be a pioneer in organic farming and land stewardship."
The company says Kernza could help improve soil health and carbon sequestration as well as boost water retention and enrich wildlife habitat.
To facilitate the grain’s commercial use, General Mills has made a $500,000 charitable contribution to the University of Minnesota’s Forever Green Initiative. The university will partner with The Land Institute, a nonprofit that focuses on scientific research into agronomic practices outside of conventional agriculture, to reach three objectives:
- Reduce greenhouse gas emissions from food production
- Identify best management practices for sustainable farming
- Breed Kernza for improved yields
Kernza is notable for its high-density roots, which can extend 10 ft. down into the soil. An acre test plot will be planted this fall near the Skagit River in Washington, where Cascadian Farm’s home operation is located.