Ranch Musings columnist David Zirnhelt. (File Photo)

RANCH MUSINGS: Perennial cereals and their potential to heal

I was excited to read that Intermediate wheatgrass is now approved for human use in the U.S.

I was excited to read that intermediate wheatgrass is now approved for human use in the U.S.

This report is featured in the New Seed Variety Guide for 2021 put out by the Western Producer, Canada’s preeminent farm newspaper.

Now if you are a cattle producer you might know about this crop as a cattle feed, mostly as a grazing plant.

If you have had an eye on innovation in agriculture then you might know about the Land Institute in Salina, Kansas, or the more recent Minnesota Land Institute that launched a commercial variety which has been under development for 20 years.

The variety recently released for sale is a human food grade called MN Clearwater. It is promoted as “superfood with environmental and health benefits.”

As ranchers and farmers, we are always looking for better nutrition for our animals and as consumers we are all looking for nutrient dense foods since the industrial system of food productions often reduces the nutrient content, especially the micronutrient (essential for health) content.

READ MORE: Impacts of COVID-19 on food systems

I have written before about the Land Institute in Kansas and its leadership in developing crops that don’t need to be seeded every year (annuals) with all the attendant costs of farming the land: plowing, disking, harrowing, seeding etc.

In a nutshell what the Land Institute in Kansas and their Minnesota partners aim to do is to advance perennial (lasting many years without reseeding) grains and polycultures (many crops all sewn together).

The Minnesota Land Institute has developed the first new grain crop in 4,200 years. The founding Kansas Institute set about developing the first perennial grains and figured it would take 50 to 100 years to commercialize such crops.

It was 1976 that Wes and Dana Jackson founded the Land Institute when his research science jobs at universities were taking a different tact: inventing destructive crop practices that used up soil and polluted land and water.

That was 45 years ago. Some beneficial innovations take decades.

Now to feed the world without depreciating the sustainability of farming practices and the land, this innovation is welcomed.

The scientists and farmers behind this new (old) crop are hopeful intermediate wheat grass grain can be mixed with traditional wheats for cooking and baking.

Beer fans will be interested that one of the first food products from the MN Clearwater variety is Kernza Ale or Long Root Ale. Yes, beer is food.

READ MORE: Flooding fun enjoyed by Cariboo family

The ecological benefits of this perennial plant, is that it can use nutrients that might otherwise be lost to the soil and the long vigorous roots systems can build healthy soil.

Intermediate wheatgrass is native to Europe and Western Asia. I see the potential to plant this crop as a part of a rotation designed to help grow and finish beef locally, since we are not a big grain growing region.

If the animals can graze, it may be cost effective. Plus, it is a grass and grassing beef programs can use it.

Check this crop out with Peace Forage Tools, from a neighbouring crop trial region.

David Zirnhelt is a rancher and member of the Cariboo Cattlemen’s Association. He is also chair of the Advisory Committee for the Applied Sustainable Ranching Program at TRU.

Do you have a comment about this story? email:

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

CaribooFarmingWilliams Lake

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

The public is being asked to use caution when doing backyard burning in the Cariboo Fire Centre. (File photo)
Caution urged with outdoor burning says Cariboo Fire Centre

Anyone conducting burning must ensure adequate resources are on hand to stop fire from spreading

Janda Group Holdings Inc. has finalized its design for its residential unit project on the second floor of the Boitanio Mall in Williams Lake. (Janda Group Holdings Inc. image)
Boitanio Mall housing development revised design accepted by Williams Lake city council

Janda Group Holdings Inc. is planning for 82 residential units at the site

FILE — In this March 31, 2021 file photo, a nurse fills a syringe with a dose of the Johnson & Johnson’s one-dose COVID-19 vaccine at the Vaxmobile, at the Uniondale Hempstead Senior Center, in Uniondale, N.Y. The U.S. is recommending a “pause” in administration of the single-dose Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine to investigate reports of potentially dangerous blood clots. In a joint statement Tuesday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration said it was investigating clots in six women in the days after vaccination, in combination with reduced platelet counts. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer, File)
72 new COVID-19 cases in Interior Health

This brings the total number of cases in the region to 9,666 since the pandemic began

Photo collage of loved ones lost to substance use and overdose. (Photo courtesy Moms Stop The Harm)
B.C. overdose deaths still rising 5 years after public health emergency declared

Moms Stop the Harm calls on B.C. to provide safe supply in response to deadly illicit drug use

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

A screenshot from a Nuu-chah-nulth healing song and performance created in collaboration between Hjalmer Wenstob and Timmy Masso. (Screenshot from YouTube)
WATCH: Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation brothers produce COVID-19 healing song

Hjalmer Wenstob and Timmy Masso share dance and inspiration.

Health Canada headquarters in Ottawa. (Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press)
Health Canada releases guidelines for reducing COVID-19 transmission at home

Improve indoor air quality by opening up your windows and doors, among the encouraged ventilation measures

Flow Academy is not accepting membership applications from anybody who has received a dose of the vaccine, according to a password-protected membership application form. (Submitted image)
B.C. martial arts gym refusing patrons who have been vaccinated, wear masks

Interior Health has already issued a ticket to Flow Academy for non-compliance with public health orders

Two men walk past a sign on Main Street in downtown Vancouver, B.C., Monday, April 5, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Calls for government transparency in COVID data continue as B.C.’s 3rd wave wears on

Social media, where both information and misinformation can spread like wildfire, has not helped

The music video for “Green and Blue” featured a Willington Care Centre in Burnaby as well as some of the volunteers and employees. (Screenshot/Todd Richard)
‘Green and Blue’: B.C. country musician releases tribute song for front-line workers

Richard’s new single has been viewed more than 3,000 times on his YouTube channel

An unidentified B.C. man said, in a human rights complaint, that he was refused a contract job after refusing to wear a mask when asked to by an on-site manager. (Unsplash)
Religious B.C. man lodges human rights complaint after fired for refusing to wear a mask

Worker’s claim that ‘to cover up our face infringes on our God-given ability to breathe’ dismissed by B.C. Human Rights Tribunal

This 2013 Dodge Ram 1500 was stolen from Black Creek Motors at approximately 2 a.m. Sunday, April 11. Photos via blackcreekmotors.com
VIDEO: B.C. car dealer posts clip of thieves towing a truck right off his lot

Video shows one white truck towing another off Vancouver Island lot

Most Read