MADISON — Sevie Kenyon: The growing world of kernza wheat, we’re visiting today with Valentin Picasso Department of Agronomy, University of Wisconsin-Madison in the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences and I’m Sevie Kenyon. Valentin, you’re working with kernza wheat can you tell us what that is?
Valentin Picasso: So, Kernza it’s a perennial crop, perennial grain and forage crop, so it is a dual purpose crop. You can harvest grain out of it and you can harvest forage out of it and once you plant it you can harvest it for many years.
Sevie Kenyon: Forage is used to feed cows but what do you do with the grain?
Valentin Picasso: The grain it can be used as human food just like wheat; can use it for flour for making bread. You can ferment it and produce beer or other drinks.
Sevie Kenyon: And Valentin, where does this come from?
Valentin Picasso: This plant is originally from central Europe and Asia. It was introduced as a forage crop to the U.S. in the early 1900s and it’s been bred over the last 10 years by The Land Institute in Kansas to increase the size of the seed and they’ve got impressive improvements in grain yield in this crop.
Sevie Kenyon: And here in Wisconsin, what do people know if they’re interested in this?
Valentin Picasso: The main interest here in Wisconsin comes from farmers who want to have a flexible crop that they can use for harvest grain but at the same time they may have some dairy or beef. Farmers who have cattle and they want be able to harvest forage or to graze this crop. So, we’re doing research on what’s the impact of grazing on the grain production and you can either graze it in the spring, graze it in the fall before or after the grain harvest. And so, it produces a lot of forage and a lot of biomass, but at the same time you can harvest grain which is what everybody wants.
Sevie Kenyon: What is the market for the grain?
Valentin Picasso: There’s a lot of interest right now on that grain. For instance, there’s Patagonia Provisions which is a food company, it has just produced what they call “Long Root Beer which is basically a beer brewed out of kernza grain. Recently General Mills also announced that they are going to incorporate perennial grain into some of their products. And then there is a lot of restaurants and bakeries in the area where they are serving as part of their menu or as part of their baked goods products with kernza.
Sevie Kenyon: Valentin, is there a place people can go for more information?
Valentin Picasso: Plovgh’s website www.plovgh.com that’s plovgh, and they have all the information about what is kernza and how you can grow it and how you can get the seed. Also, they University of Wisconsin-Madison here in the Agronomy Department you can contact us and we can provide information.
Sevie Kenyon: We’ve been visiting with Valentin Picasso Department of Agronomy, University of Wisconsin-Madison in the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences and I’m Sevie Kenyon.
— Valentin Picasso Risso and Sevie Kenyon, UW-Madison
For more news from Wisconsin, click here.