Testing new perennial intermediate wheatgrass for sustainable agriculture in California

Project Overview

Project Type: Farmer/Rancher
Funds awarded in 2022: $25,000.00
Projected End Date: 08/31/2024
Host Institution Award ID: G379-22-W9210
Grant Recipient: Meristem LLC
Region: Western
State: California
Principal Investigator:
Charlie Chen
Meristem LLC


  • Agronomic: grass (misc. perennial)


  • Crop Production: crop improvement and selection
  • Education and Training: on-farm/ranch research
  • Natural Resources/Environment: carbon sequestration, soil stabilization

    Proposal summary:

    The drought associated with the climate change has left some traditional agriculture unsustainable and farmlands uncultivated in California. A new perennial cropping system offers sustainable economic opportunities for farmers. Our project will test a grain-type intermediate wheatgrass Kernza, that is genetically related to common wheat, in our local climate. We will develop the protocol and best practice to establish Kernza in our farmland and demonstrate the marketability of the grain and biomass products from the crops. If successful, the perennial Kernza will provide substantial environmental benefits relative to annual grain crops, including reduced soil and water erosion, reduced soil nitrate leaching, and increased carbon sequestration, which will help alleviate the effect of climate change.  The reduced input of seed, tillage, energy, labor, and savings on fertilizer and pesticides all translate economic benefit for farmers.  Our findings will show the viability of growing Kernza in southern part of the country, which so far is only grown in the northern part. We will communicate with agriculture professionals nationwide and statewide with our results and host outreach activities in our local communities and Indian reservations. We will also educate student and future farmers about the new cropping systems.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    1. to test if a perennial grain crop system can be established in the place of winter oat in local climate and find the best practice to grow it


    1. to measure grain and biomass feed production in year 1 and year 2 and determine the marketability and environmental benefit of the new crop


    1. to perform outreach to farmers in the community and educate students and next generation farmers about the new sustainable agriculture system
    Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.