Cascadian Farms and parent company General Mills have partnered with The Land Institute to incorporate organic Kernza in their commercial lines of cereals and snacks. Kernza is a perennial grain developed by The Land Institute from intermediate wheatgrass, and it is related to annual wheat. It has a sweet, nutty taste, and a slightly lower gluten content than annual wheat. Kernza is distinguished from annual wheat by its potential to contribute to large-scale sustainable agriculture and ecological restoration.
Recent research from The Land Institute indicates that because Kernza’s roots extend upwards of ten feet deep, are denser than annual wheat varieties, and last longer, it has the potential to increase soil health by reducing the need to till and to replant every year. Reducing tillage and annual replanting increases soil nutrients, enhances water retention, and decreases soil erosion. Thus, Kernza can potentially contribute to soil formation, rather than soil-depletion like other varieties of commercially produced annual wheat.
To support additional research on Kernza’s viability as a sustainable alternative to annual wheat varieties, General Mills contributed US$500,000 to a partnership between the Forever Green Initiative at the University of Minnesota and The Land Institute. The partnership will conduct various studies on Kernza’s impact on carbon sequestration, how to increase yields of Kernza, and improvements in sustainable production methods.
While Kernza is primarily blended with annual wheat flour for breads, and often makes up the majority of flour in quick breads, it can be used in cereals and snacks or be cooked on its own. Kernza is The Land Institute’s first commercially produced perennial crop, and with the support of Cascadian Farms, General Mills, and the University of Minnesota, is scheduled to become more widely available to the public by 2019.