An innovative grain

The research: The University of Minnesota’s Forever Green Initiative is doing additional research into an intermediate wheatgrass trade-named Kernza.

How corporate giving made a difference: General Mills made a $500,000 gift to fund the research. This funding will allow the U and the non-profit Land Institute to study Kernza’s potential to reduce greenhouse gas emissions associated with food production, determine best practices for sustainable production, and increase yields through breeding.

Why it’s innovative: Kernza is a wild relative of annual wheatgrass. Its sweet, nutty taste lends itself to use in cereal and snacks, and it has long roots that may help preserve soil health and reduce nitrogen deposited into ground and surface water. Because it’s a perennial, farmers don’t have to replant it every year, so soil disruption is minimized.

How it started: The University has worked with General Mills and the Land Institute since 2014 to research the viability of Kernza as an earth-friendly, sustainable grain.

Bottom line: “Support from General Mills is an example of a university-industry partnership that can help translate research into commercial application that, in turn, helps develop markets to spur further advancement in crops for both food use and ecosystem improvement,” says Brian Buhr, dean of the U’s College of Food, Agricultural, and Natural Resource Sciences.

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