Food production globally relies on monocultures of annual crop species, which require replanting every year and external inputs, causingsoil erosion, climate change, water pollution, and biodiversity loss, and are vulnerable to climate extremes like drought. Perennialsprovide continuous soil cover and roots, which fix carbon, protect soil health, retain nutrients, reduce inputs, and are more resilient todroughts.
Developing perennial grain and forage systems can transform the relationship between humans and the environment byproviding food and ecosystem services. Kernza (Intermediate wheatgrass) is a perennial grass relative of wheat and recentlydomesticated as a perennial grain and forage crop in North America. Kernza has been tested at farms in Sweden, which has pioneeredthis research in Europe. Demand for perennial grain food products, like Kernza beer and baked goods, is increasing. Dairy and beeffarmers are interested in the high forage production potential from Kernza. As a perennial deep-rooted crop, Kernza is very drought andcold tolerant, which makes it an attractive plant adapted to future Nordic-Baltic conditions under climate change.
However, little is knownabout the adaptation and productivity of this novel crop in the Nordic and Baltic countries, as well as which agronomic managementpractices may optimise the grain and forage production. The main objective of this project is to strengthen research collaborationbetween Sweden, Norway, Finland, Estonia, Lithuania, and Denmark to explore the adaptation and potential of grain and forageproduction and quality of Kernza across the Nordic and Baltic region.
Our research will test a range of agronomic management questionsincluding optimal N fertilisation, benefits of intercropping with legumes, optimal harvest schedule for forage, soil health benefits, andcarbon budget. We will engage an international network of diverse stakeholders including farmers, food industry, advisors, and policymakers to explore the feasibility of this new crop in the region. The productivity and management requirements will be used to assessthe climate impact of Kernza production systems as compared to annual cereal production systems, both in terms of grain and forageproduction, to evaluate the Kernza production systems potential contribution to climate mitigation within the agricultural primaryproduction in the Nordic region of Europe.