The Land Institute

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The Land Institute
The Land Institute Logo.jpg
Formation 1 August 1976 (1976-08-01)[1]
Founders Wes Jackson, Dana Jackson
Purpose Plant breeding
Fred Iutzi
Pete Ferrell
Jan Flora[2]
Budget (2014)
$3.1 million USD[3]
Staff (2014)
Mission "to develop an agriculture that will save soil from being lost or poisoned, while promoting a community life at once prosperous and enduring."[5][6]

The Land Institute is a non-profit research, education, and policy organization dedicated to sustainable agriculture based in Salina, Kansas, United States. Their goal is to develop an agricultural system based on perennial crops that "has the ecological stability of the prairie and a grain yield comparable to that from annual crops".[5] The organization has trademarked Kernza®️ perennial grain, an intermediate wheatgrass grain in development.


The institute was founded on 28 acres in 1976 by plant geneticist and MacArthur "genius grant" recipient Wes Jackson and Dana Jackson, who has worked with the Land Stewardship Project in Minnesota.[1][7][8] As of 2014, the organization owns at least 879 acres of land.[3]

The Land Institute promotes "natural systems agriculture" through plant breeding.[9] Land Institute scientists are cross breeding the annual crop plants wheat, sorghum and sunflower with wild, perennial relatives to create perennial varieties.[10][11] Using selective breeding and other techniques, they also are working to domesticate wild perennials.[12] The organization's concept of developing perennial crops is modeled after the ecological design of prairies, which are known for their soil quality, deep root systems, and self-sufficiency.[9][13][14] In an interview, Wes Jackson called the concept "an inversion of industrial agriculture."[9] Perennial polyculture systems may have a variety of benefits over conventional annual monocultures such as increased biodiversity, reduced soil erosion, and reduced inputs of irrigation, fossil fuels, fertilizers, and pesticides.[15][16] Perennial crops also show promise in root-based carbon sequestration.[17][18] The organization's achievement of productive and genetically stable perennial crop plants for use by farmers is expected to take several decades.[11][13] Critics note the future economic challenge in profitably harvesting perennial polyculture.[16]

Since 1979, The Land Institute has annually hosted its Prairie Festival, which includes lectures, art displays, tours, and music performances.[19][20]


Harvesting a Thinopyrum intermedium breeding nursery at The Land Institute

The Land Institute has developed an intermediate wheatgrass (Thinopyrum intermedium) grain trademarked as Kernza®️ perennial grain, which is in the early stages of commercialization, launched commercially as a featured ingredient in Patagonia Provisions' Long Root Ale (brewed by Hopworks Urban Brewery) in late 2016.[13][14][21] As of 2012, the domestication had doubled Kernza's seed size and increased seed production by twenty percent.[11] Kernza®️ had already been made into beer and bread, which are often served at the Prairie Festival.[18][20] Kernza®️ contains gluten, but lacks the complement that enables bread to rise.[22] Wes Jackson predicted that Kernza®️ would be released within another decade,[9][13] but the release of Long Root Ale and subsequent commitments by General Mills/Cascadian Farm mean that commercial development of Kernza®️ is at this point ahead of that schedule.

Appearances in published works[edit]

The Land Institute's work was featured in Michael Pollan's New York Times best-seller The Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals.[23][24] The general modus operandi of developing a sustainable, high yield, low labor, agricultural model based on the culturation of crop polycultures, developed by The Land Institute forms the substance of the chapter How Will We Feed Ourselves? in Janine Benyus's book, Biomimicry: Innovation Inspired by Nature.[25]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "The Land Institute Official Website: The Land Institute is Founded". Retrieved 30 December 2014. 
  2. ^ "The Land Institute Official Website: Board". Retrieved 30 December 2014. 
  3. ^ a b c "Land Institute Official Website: Annual Report Fall 2014". Retrieved 31 December 2014. 
  4. ^ "The Land Institute Official Website: Contact Us". Archived from the original on 31 December 2014. Retrieved 30 December 2014. 
  5. ^ a b "The Land Institute Official Website: Vision & Mission". Retrieved 30 December 2014. 
  6. ^ Allison Hayes-Conroy (2007). Reconnecting Lives to the Land: An Agenda for Critical Dialogue. Associated University Presse. p. 145. ISBN 978-0-8386-4130-9. 
  7. ^ The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. "Meet the 1992 MacArthur Fellows". Retrieved 2013-07-01. 
  8. ^ Dana L. Jackson (1 April 2002). The Farm as Natural Habitat: Reconnecting Food Systems With Ecosystems. Island Press. ISBN 978-1-59726-269-9. 
  9. ^ a b c d Shattuck, Kathryn (27 September 2012). "Q. and A.: Farming for an Uncertain Future". Green Blogs. The New York Times. Retrieved 30 December 2014. 
  10. ^ Stern, Anna (2009). "Ideas for a Better Food System :: Soil". YES! Magazine. 
  11. ^ a b c Friedland, Andrew; Relyea, Rick; Courard-Hauri, David; Jones, Ross; Weisburg, Susan (2012). Environmental Science for AP. New York, New York: W.H. Freeman and Company. p. 304. ISBN 978-0-7167-3849-7. Retrieved 30 December 2014. 
  12. ^ Kunzig, Robert (April 2011). "Perennial Solution". National Geographic. 
  13. ^ a b c d Thomas J. Goreau; Ronal W. Larson; Joanna Campe (4 December 2014). Geotherapy: Innovative Methods of Soil Fertility Restoration, Carbon Sequestration, and Reversing CO2 Increase. CRC Press. p. 17. ISBN 978-1-4665-9540-8. 
  14. ^ a b Bittman, Mark (22 October 2013). "Now This Is Natural Food". The Opinion Pages. The New York Times. Retrieved 30 December 2014. 
  15. ^ Simon Moffat, Anne (1996-11-29). "Agricultural Research: Higher Yielding Perennials Point the Way to New Crops". Science. 274 (5292): 1469–1470. doi:10.1126/science.274.5292.1469. Retrieved 2009-07-08. 
  16. ^ a b Paul B. Thompson; W K Kellogg Chair in Agricultural Food and Community Ethics Paul B Thompson (25 July 2005). The Spirit of the Soil: Agriculture and Environmental Ethics. Routledge. pp. 123–124. ISBN 978-1-134-88442-1. 
  17. ^ Berman, Elizabeth; Welchel, Sarah. "Paying for Perennialism: A Quest for Food and Funding". Issues in Science and Technology. 
  18. ^ a b Fineman, Julie (30 October 2014). "San Francisco's Perennial Is Beyond Farm to Fork: A Marriage of All Things Sustainable". The Blog: Green. The Huffington Post. Retrieved 30 December 2014. 
  19. ^ "The Land Institute Official Website: 1st Prairie Festival". Retrieved 30 December 2014. 
  20. ^ a b Shattuck, Kathryn (2 October 2012). "Out on the Prairie, Moon, Music and Lectures, Too". Salina Journal. Salina, Kansas, USA. The New York Times. Retrieved 30 December 2014. 
  21. ^ Trademark information. Kernza. LegalForce. Retrieved: 2013-10-26.
  22. ^ Poh Si Teng, Mark Bittman, Emma Cott, Wes Jackson, Tim Crews (23 October 2013). Future of Farming (Online video). United States: The New York Times. 
  23. ^ Michael Pollan (2006). The Omnivore's Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals. Penguin Group. ISBN 978-1-59420-082-3. 
  24. ^ "The 10 Best Books of 2006", The New York Times, December 12, 2006
  25. ^ Benyus, Janine M (2002) [First published 1997]. "How Will We Feed Ourselves?". Biomimicry : innovation inspired by nature. New York: Perennial. ISBN 978-0-06-053322-9. OCLC 51226447. 

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 38°46′08″N 97°33′08″W / 38.76889°N 97.55222°W / 38.76889; -97.55222