Did you know that most grains like corn only last one season and have to be planted, tilled, etc each and every year? They are called annuals and so each year the replanting process causes tons of waste, topsoil erosion, fertilizer runoff, pollution and CO2 release. It would be much better if there was a cultivated grass, which when consumed by humans is then defined as a “grain,” that could be planted once, and yield multiple seasons of crops (perennial).
Turns out, scientists have developed such a grass called Kernza. They call it “the wheat of the future” because it has much better properties than the current main grains that feed humanity: rice, wheat, and corn. We as individuals need to be open to adjusting our palate to like new flavors, simply because they make more sense. It is said to taste like “nuts, crackers, coffee, and grass” so it can’t be that bad. As consumers, we need to start stimulating demand for these types of products and be open to integrating them into our meals. We may have to make some minor sacrifices, but it will be worth it in the end because this type of plant would yield food for 5 seasons versus one season. This is a 5x improvement in all of the metrics associated with planting and tilling and would significantly improve our environment and ecosystems, especially by preserving our topsoil resources.
Read more about this awesome grass and let the idea of better species grow on you:
The word “grain” has many definitions, but it commonly refers to any plant that humans eat and that’s also part of the botanical family of grasses. Three grains provide about half of the world’s calories: corn, wheat, and rice (the only one of the three that is occasionally cultivated as a perennial in the tropics). In the United States, about 46 million acres of land are covered with wheat and 91 million with corn, a combined area bigger than New Mexico. Mostly, these grains are planted in monoculture—one variety to a huge field—and cultivated with the help of fertilizers, herbicides, and pesticides, as well as the kind of precision and efficiency you’d expect on a factory floor. This method of farming has made it possible to cheaply produce food calories for hundreds of millions of people; raise vast populations of cattle, pigs, and chickens; and develop enormous markets for other grain-based products, including ethanol. (About 40 percent of American-grown corn in 2016 was turned into ethanol; 37 percent was used to fatten livestock or ended up damaged or miscounted; and a minuscule fraction entered the human diet, mostly as corn syrup.)
Growing grain this way requires huge amounts of fossil fuel to power farm machinery and to make synthetic nitrogen fertilizer (accounting for as much as 3 percent of the world’s carbon emissions). And every time you till and replant, you loosen and tear up the topsoil. As a result, millions of tons of soil erode into the nation’s waterways every year, carrying pesticides, herbicides, and fertilizers with them, contributing to a “dead zone” in the Gulf of Mexico, and polluting waterways all over the Midwest.
Read more at The Nation