Kansas Land Institute continues work on perennial crops

August 11, 2018 - 11:24 am

The Land Institute continues to grow slowly in Kansas.

For more than 40 years, The Land Institute has been working to develop perennial crops that grow together but are harvested at different times, The Salina Journal reported.

Institute leaders believe this will project the soil and help the environment. The ultimate goal is to protect the Earth's resources while feeding a growing population and creating a more sustainable place.

The mission is slowly gaining momentum, said Fred Iutzi, the institute's president.

"We're on our way, but we're not there. That would be the worst assumption we could make," he said.

While has made progress, breeding and selecting the best traits for crops takes time, said Lee DeHaan, the lead scientist for the domestication of Kernza perennial wheatgrass at the institute.

"It's fun to see the work we've been doing hopefully starting to make a difference," DeHaan said. "That's kind of a thrill for me."

The institute collaborates with experts around the world who are studying new scientific techniques when it comes to perennial grain crops.

"What I'm confident in is that perennial grain will become household names," Iutzi said. "The point here is to change fundamentally how agriculture is done and what we think about agriculture."

The institute is currently looking to add a commercialization manager and work toward promoting Kernza.

"We have something marketable now as a specialty crop, but we're looking to improve it over time to be a major crop," Iutzi said.

The grain can be used in a variety of ways, including for pizza, pasta, breads, desserts and beer.

"It has a sweet and nutty, honey aroma as you bake it," DeHaan said of Kernza's flour.

The Institute will eventually expand efforts to develop perennial corn and soybeans, Iutzi said

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