Production agriculture relies primarily on seeding of annual crops for food, feed, fuel, and fibre in western Canada. Annual seeding and harvesting commonly leave land non-productive for a portion of the year. There is the potential for both soil and nutrient loss from this unused land base and, just as important, we are missing the potential for photosynthesis. The capture of carbon in these off-season times may aid in carbon sequestration. Forage production (feed) relies on an animal market for its consumption. Forage seed production in Canada accounts for approximately 65 000 ha yr-1 and is almost exclusively located in western Canada. It is unlikely, however, that forage seed production area will dramatically increase due to limited markets. Perennial grains could greatly increase the land area dedicated to perennial seed production and provide alternative markets for forage products and forage seed. Intermediate wheatgrass [Thinopyrum intermedium (Host) Bark. & Dewey] (Kernza™) is the perennial grain closest to release and some potential niche markets are currently emerging. Improvement has been made through selection for grain production on individual plants for characteristics that are likely of importance at field-scale production. Agronomic packages for intermediate wheatgrass production are lacking, although forage seed production agronomy will guide this development. Agronomic benefits attributed both to perennial seed production and the inclusion of perennials in cropping systems will be greatly enhanced when the potential for perennial grain production (breeding and agronomy) is realized.
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Vol. 98 • No. 2