As we watched the first snow of the year quickly melt away on a balmy 40 degree December day here in Michigan, you might be filled with the urge to reminisce about the winters of your younger years. “I remember when I went trick-or-treating in a snow storm at the end of October!” Or, “I remember there was always snow on the ground for the opening day of gun season!” The climate is changing and here in the Upper Midwest a delay in the first familiar snowfall is one result of this, others include drought and flood. Parts of the state of Michigan were declared to be in a state of drought this past summer, having detrimental effects on yields of certain crops. States around the country share similar sentiments. As climate change continues to threaten agriculture nationally and globally, scientists have identified farming practices that might lessen the blow of these extreme weather events, allowing the farmer to better adapt to the changes. A conversion of annual crops to perennials, which more closely align with natural systems, has been recognized and discussed as one possible solution to climate change not only in scientific journals, but also in the popular press. Perennial grains, particularly Kernza, have been gaining a lot of attention recently.
The article “How farmers can get to the root of climate response – literally” published by Christian Science Monitor includes comments from researcher Jerry Glover of USAID, Matthew Ryan from Cornell University, and Timothy Crews from the Land Institute about how perennials reduce soil erosion during extreme weather events and sequester carbon. Moreover, National Public Radio published an article featuring Kernza, as several other articles have recently, as a sustainable crop to face climate change. Comments from bakers, brewers and others in the food industry indicate that there is a demand for Kernza. Rapid advancements are being made in developing Kernza into a crop that may be adopted by farmers, but it is still a work in progress. Nonetheless we are excited to see the potential of this grain recognized in popular news articles!