As early as February 2017, the Cannon River Watershed Partnership (CRWP), a non-profit based in Northfield, MN recognized the potential impact that a new perennial grain crop branded Kernza(R) could mean toward achieving its overarching goal to improve the resilience of the Cannon River Watershed and its communities. By keeping living vegetaive cover on the land surface and living roots in the soil, and by offering dual outputs of grain for human consumption and forage for livestock, Kernza(R) creates new opportunities to improve water quality and sequester carbon in the soil along with new profit centers for farmers and local entrepreneurs in food and beverage businesses. In November 2017, CRWP pursued and received a Sustainable Ag Demonstration grant from the Minnesota Department of Agriculture to work in concert with the University of Minnesota to conduct on-farm tests of Kernza(R)’s dual outputs. Patagonia then supported CRWP’s collaborations with a local brewery to create a new Kernza(R) beer and a bakery to create new Kernza(R) crackers, all featured at two community events attended by nearly 300 people.
By the summer of 2019, Kernza(R)’s potential capacity to mitigate nitrate leaching into groundwater became more clear. CRWP recognized the need and potential benefit to local communities, as well as to local and state government agencies, to develop mapping tools that identify areas vulnerable to nitrate leaching into groundwater. CRWP applied to and received funding from the University of Minnesota Regional Sustainable Development Partnership to undertake this effort.
The mapping application ranks nitrate leaching vulnerability on farmland in southeast Minnesota. The application was developed to assist with strategic placement of perennial crops to optimize agricultural outputs and environmental conservation, specifically groundwater protection. This application will be used with other tools to identify farms that are well suited for the Forever Green Economic and Environmental Clusters of Opportunity (ECCO) Implementation Program - a new cost-share and economic incentive program to support planting of intermediate wheatgrass for Kernza(R) perennial grain production.
Navigate to your own farm or other familiar agricultural areas to see if Kernza(R) production could improve drinking water quality in your area.
First photo: Kaleb Anderson with 2020 Kernza(R) grain harvest.
Second photo: Dan Honken in field for 2020 Kernza(R) grain harvest.
Third photo: Cattle grazing Kernza(R) forage after grain harvest in 2019