A Cornell researcher is part of a multi-institution team helping upstate New York organic farmers grow and increase profitability of perennial grain crops, which can be planted once and will yield grain for multiple years.

The crops’ environmental benefits have led to commercial interest in using these grains in breads, cereals, beer and even whiskey.

Perennial grains are environmentally friendly thanks to their large root systems and because they don’t require annual tilling, which leads to soil erosion and degrades soil health. Perennial grains also need fewer fertilizers and pesticides and reduce agricultural runoff into waterways.

But current low yields for the grains – such as Kernza, a brand name for Thinopyrum intermedium, a domesticated version of intermediate wheatgrass – has led researchers to explore dual uses to increase profitability, such as using the plants as forage for animals.

Cornell is now a partner on a four-year, $1.77 million U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Organic Research and Extension Initiative grant, awarded to develop growing guidelines for farmers and investigate dual uses for the organic crop.

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