Nitrogen dynamics in a perennial cereal (Kernza) for future sustainable cropping systems

Last changed: 25 October 2023

Perennial cereals are likely to be important components of future cereal-based cropping systems. This project uses the domesticated wheatgrass Kernza (intermediate wheatgrass, Thinopyrum intermedium) as a model for future perennial cereals in order to determine nitrogen (N) dynamics of a perennial cereal soil-plant system. Perennial cropping, such as Kernza, may have many benefits such as reduced costs and negative effects of soil tillage, and produce large root biomass which delivers ecosystem services associated with a cropping system based on ecological intensification, such as enhanced carbon sequestration, reduced erosion and nutrient leaching compared to annual cereals. Research on agronomy and plant nutrition has not yet been carried out to any large extent on Kernza in Europe, as sole crop or in intercropping with perennial legumes, a system which has been proposed for agroecological systems with reduced inputs and diversification. Sweden will be at the research forefront when initiating research on nitrogen nutrition and agroecology of Kernza, even though breeding is still ongoing to enhance yields at The Land Institute in USA (which is a SLU partner on the Kernza research). The knowledge obtained from the research project may be genera­lized to the introduction of other perennial cereals in arable crop rotations. The aim of this project is to determine the nitrogen dynamics in soil-plant systems with Kernza, grown as a sole crop or in an intercrop with lucerne, in a south Swedish cropping system.

The project will use the SITES Agroecological Field Experiment (SAFE) at the SITES field experimental station Lönnstorp.

Funding: TheCrafoord Foundation

Project leader: Linda-Maria Mårtensson

Project partners: Maria Ernfors and Erik Steen Jensen

Crews et al. 2016. Going where no grains have gone before: From early to mid-sucession. Agriculture, Ecosystems and Environment, 223, 223-238.