Increasing the profitability of Kernza perennial wheat with intercropped grain legumes

Project Overview

Project Type: Graduate Student
Funds awarded in 2017: $15,000.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2019
Grant Recipient: Cornell University
Region: Northeast
State: New York
Graduate Student:
Faculty Advisor:
Dr. Matthew Ryan
Cornell University


  • Agronomic: peas (field, cowpeas), rye, Kernza intermediate wheatgrass, ACE-1 perennial cereal rye


  • Crop Production: cropping systems, intercropping, no-till, strip tillage, perennial crops

    Proposal abstract:

    Perennial small grains have great potential to increase the sustainability of cropping systems. They can reduce labor and material inputs while simultaneously providing ecosystem services not obtained from annual crops. ‘Kernza’ intermediate wheat grass (Thinopyrum intermedium) is a promising perennial grain crop addition to sustainable cropping systems. Low grain yields, especially in older stands, currently limit the economic viability of Kernza, but optimizing agronomic management practices may contribute to increased productivity and thus profitability. In this study we will investigate the effects of two novel management strategies: 1) renovating mature Kernza stands via strip tillage, and 2) strip intercropping grain legumes. We hypothesize that these strategies will improve overall cropping system performance due to intercrop complementarity, increased weed suppression, disturbance-induced stimulation of Kernza growth, and grain legume yields. We will measure a suite of performance metrics including crop biomass and yields, weed biomass, harvest efficiency, and timing of crop development to inform future planning and management of legume-Kernza intercrops. This field experiment will be conducted over two years at a site in Central New York. It will build on on-going perennial grain research with the goal of developing perennial grain cropping systems for the Northeast that are both economically and environmentally sustainable.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    To better understand the effects of strip tillage and intercropping grain legumes on the productivity and profitability of Kernza perennial wheat cropping systems we will pursue the following research objectives:

    1) Quantify the effects of strip tillage and intercropping on Kernza and grain legume biomass productivity and yield.

    2) Quantify the effects of both strip tillage and intercropping on weed density and weed species composition.

    3) Conduct economic analysis and determine effects of strip tillage and grain legume intercropping on overall cropping system profitability.

    4) Monitor and compare Kernza and grain legume growth to inform planting schedules that allow for synchronous maturity and harvesting.

    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.