Kernza Breeding

It is well known that the demand for food is projected to increase in coming decades because of our increasing population size. Yet, increasing crop productivity typically means more burden on the environment. Given the concerns regarding changes in global climate patterns, it is vital that we implement sustainable cropping systems. Intermediate wheatgrass (IWG, Thinopyrum intermedium), an outcrossing perennial crop with nutritious grain and broad ecological services, could be a part of such system. Currently at a very early stage of domestication process, IWG provides a living green cover in fallow lands while also producing grain and biomass. The University of Minnesota has been Institute has been breeding IWG as a perennial food crop since 2011 by implementing modern genomic tools to expedite IWG’s domestication timeline. Since the inception of the breeding program, significant improvements have been made in grain yield, seed size, free threshing, and resistance to shattering and lodging. A significant achievement of our IWG breeding program is the release of the first Kernza® variety, ‘MN-Clearwater’, in 2019; a second variety will likely be released in 2023.

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