Clair Keene

Clair Keene, NDSU Extension cropping systems specialist at the Williston Research Extension Center, checks Kernza variety trial plots.

Kernza and salt-tolerant forages will be featured during a field day on perennial crops at North Dakota State University’s Williston Research Extension Center (WREC) on Sept. 26.

Kernza is new perennial grain crop under development by breeding programs at The Land Institute of Salina, Kan., and the University of Minnesota. Kernza is intermediate wheatgrass (Thinopyrum intermedium) that has been bred intensively for increased seed size and yield for the past 15 years.

“Intermediate wheatgrass is widely used as a forage, but breeders are making great strides in increasing seed yield of Kernza lines,” says Clair Keene, NDSU Extension cropping systems specialist at the WREC. “Growing a perennial grain crop would give farmers the ability to plant once and harvest over multiple seasons, reducing the fuel, labor and soil disturbance that goes along with seeding annual crops.”

Kernza’s deep perennial roots hold soil in place, reducing erosion, and allow exploration farther down in the soil profile than by the much shallower roots of annual wheat.

“Researchers in Minnesota are excited about planting Kernza in sandy soils near drinking water wells to prevent nitrates and phosphorus from contaminating water supplies,” Keene says.

During the field day, she will talk about Kernza management and the research being conducted in the Williston area. Chris Wiegert from Healthy Food Ingredients, a specialty food ingredient company, will discuss the development of the Kernza supply chain.

The second half of the field day agenda will focus on saline soil management and will highlight the progress being made at the WREC on reclaiming a saline seep with salt-tolerant alfalfa and grass varieties. Jane Holzer of the Montana Salinity Control Association will present how saline seeps form and how management of the water table must change to prevent seeps from growing. Jim Staricka, soil scientist at the WREC, will share data from the on-site saline seep reclamation project and discuss soil monitoring.

The field day will run from 9 a.m. to noon Central time. The WREC is at 14120 Highway 2, or 4 1/2 miles west of Williston.

For more information about this event, contact the WREC at 701-774-4315 or by email at clair.keene@ndsu.edu.

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