Kernza® has the potential to provide a number of environmental benefits compared to annual crops. Our goal is to measure and quantify those environmental benefits. Below is a list of environmental benefits – or ecosystem services – that we are studying as they relate to Kernza®.
- Greenhouse gas emissions: Kernza® doesn’t require annual tillage and has a deep, dense root system that could help build soil organic matter and lead to carbon sequestration. Kernza® also requires less nitrogen fertilizer, which means that few fossil fuels are used to produce Kernza® grain and nitrous oxide emissions could be lower than annual crops. We are studying these components and others as they relate to Kernza’s® greenhouse gas footprint.
- Nitrate leaching: Kernza’s® deep roots can access soil nitrogen where most annual crops cannot, which limits our need to apply synthetic fertilizers. The crop’s roots are also very efficient at capturing any nitrogen fertilizer that’s applied, therefore reducing how much is leached to the groundwater. We are working to measure how much nitrogen leaches to groundwater in a Kernza® system compared to annual crops like corn.