Forever Green Initiative takes root

December 30, 2016
A green crop in a field beneath a blue sky

Most of Minnesota’s 27 million acres of farmland are dedicated to summer annuals, including the highly productive and profitable corn and soybeans. But by selectively adding winter-annual and perennial crops to our agricultural landscape, we can support rural communities and provide major benefits to all Minnesotans.

The Forever Green Initiative is a University of Minnesota and USDA Agricultural Research Service program aimed at developing these new crops to bolster the agricultural economy with sustainable—and commercially viable—products.

One example is intermediate wheatgrass, highlighted in a recent video on the Forever Green Initiative as part of the Big Ten Network’s Live B1G series. The flour produced by intermediate wheatgrass is similar to that of wheat, but with a higher protein content, says Don Wyse, professor of agronomy and plant genetics. Intermediate wheatgrass stays in production for at least four to five years, Wyse notes, reducing the need to till the soil each year and increasing economic opportunity for farmers.

Another goal of the initiative is to domesticate new crops over the course of a decade rather than 150 years—something unheard-of till now.

The Forever Green Initiative team includes experts in breeding, genomics, agronomics, and commercialization, and capitalizes on the University of Minnesota’s broad interdisciplinary strengths.