MN Impact: Intermediate Wheatgrass Shows Promise for Environment, Industry and Farmers
As the first widely available perennial grain crop, intermediate wheatgrass will change agriculture landscapes by providing multiple ecosystem services including making them more sustainable, especially in the face of climate change. But more work is needed to breed new varieties of intermediate wheatgrass that will be profitable for farmers and fulfill industry needs.
What has been done
Several Forever Green Initiative projects are focused on breeding superior varieties of intermediate wheatgrass for profitable production in the Midwest. Domestication traits such as seed shattering, threshability, and seed size are all being targeted by these efforts. Early results have been made with seed size increasing at a rate of about 5 percent per year. Researchers are also optimizing the breeding process by using DNA fingerprinting and other genomic tools to shorten this process.
The first five variety candidates of intermediate wheatgrass entered statewide yield tests in 2016. General Mills has also teamed up with the Land Institute and the University of Minnesota to help commercialize Kernza and provide funding for the Forever Initiative to support further developments and research.