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The Land Institute

Transforming Agriculture, Perennially

Salina, KS   |  www.landinstitute.org

Mission

When people, land, and community are as one, all three members prosper; when they relate not as members but as competing interests, all three are exploited. By consulting nature as the source and measure of that membership, The Land Institute seeks to develop an agriculture that will save soil from being lost or poisoned, while promoting a community life at once prosperous and enduring.

Ruling year info

1977

President

Rachel Stroer

Main address

2440 East Water Well Road

Salina, KS 1 USA

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EIN

48-0842156

NTEE code info

Research Institutes and/or Public Policy Analysis (K05)

Land Resources Conservation (C34)

Physical Sciences/Earth Sciences Research and Promotion (U30)

IRS filing requirement

This organization is required to file an IRS Form 990 or 990-EZ.

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Communication

Programs and results

What we aim to solve

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Our programs

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

What are the organization's current programs, how do they measure success, and who do the programs serve?

Kernza®

To accelerate progress in breeding varieties of intermediate wheatgrass in Kernza® production, we have used genomic selection techniques for the past five years. This technique has saved years of work in the field by using genetic markers on DNA from 2-week-old plants to predict the performance of plants as adults. Genomic selection allows us to make rapid improvements for all important traits, such as yield and seed size. Compared to traditional breeding, our rate of progress has at least doubled.
We have now embarked on a collaborative project with a USDA geneticist to identify the precise chromosomes in more than a thousand wheat/wheatgrass hybrid plants and to characterize those plants in the field. This work could produce an important breakthrough in the coming years!

Population(s) Served
Adults
Children and youth
Farmers

Our research in perennial groundcover (PGC) systems has expanded over the past year. This work pairs perennial legumes that provide ecosystem services (e.g., nitrogen fixation, weed suppression, erosion control) with other grain crops. We selected diploid kura clover plants from breeding trials that could serve as PGC for perennial grains like Kernza® and annual grains like corn. We also grew large quantities of kura clover seed to enable researchers at other institutions and farmers in Kansas, Iowa, and Nebraska to trial kura clover in their production systems.
We have continued to develop sainfoin as a perennial pulse crop by establishing new breeding nurseries in Montana, conducting nutritional and toxicology research, and establishing new relationships with sainfoin seed growers and commercial partners.

Population(s) Served
Adults
Children and youth
Farmers

The uses of Silphium intergrifolium continue to grow. At the breeding nursery, silphium provided abundant food resources to honeybees and their hives during the July “dearth” when few other crops or native plants were flowering.
Simultaneously, testing in Argentina and Kansas confirmed that silphium stems and leaves are very nutritious for livestock. We are currently collecting seeds from the most diverse and healthy plants to develop an improved “bee & beef” forage silphium for the central Great Plains.
Different plants in the “bee & beef” population are currently being hand-pollinated to provide a set of related lines for testing in our exciting new Phenomic Selection project funded by the Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research.

Population(s) Served
Adults
Children and youth
Farmers

This year we discovered that diploid hybrids formed by crossing cultivated sorghum, offer the possibility of breeding perennial sorghums of relatively low complexity. Our analysis of F3 diploid families for rhizome formation over the current growing season had identified several diploid families with rhizomes, thus making them perennial. In addition, there are several diploid families who have expressed rhizome development in one or both locations (Salina, KS and Tifton, GA). We are also evaluating whether these families are perennial in Uganda.

Population(s) Served
Adults
Children and youth
Farmers

Perennial wheat research reached a milestone this year, with three durum wheat lines surviving two years and producing grain in both years. Most plants made it through severe drought last summer through early fall and through frigid temperatures in February. However, fewer plants showed the potential of living into the third year.
A newer experiment demonstrated that those same three durum wheat lines became more perennial in a later-planting scenario, suggesting that a particular combination of environmental factors and agronomic management could greatly influence perenniality. Therefore, we are running two multi-location trials with ten newer durum wheat lines to find ways to push the level of perenniality to three or more years.

Population(s) Served
Adults
Children and youth
Farmers

Our Ecosphere Studies team shared foundational knowledge and narratives through accessible learning materials. They are currently creating a new educational framework that invites students and public to understand perennial grains in the context of human communities, agroecosystems, and changing Earth systems. This “Kernza® in Context” framework was informed by interviews with teacher-researchers and stakeholders in year one of the five-year Kernza®CAP grant. The team will next build out educational modules based on the framework.

Population(s) Served

The Crop Stewardship program uses research on innovation, adoption, and scaling to get perennial grain crops from the research station onto farms and eaten by people at a scale worthy of their impact. In addition, we develop strategies to ensure the broader world is prepared to use and value these new crops and cropping systems.
This year, we welcome the first Crop Stewardship Technician, who will help manage the Kernza® trademark and build a framework for including diversity and inclusion in the work of expanding perennial grain agriculture.

Population(s) Served

Leading, sustaining, and scaling our integrative civic science program, simultaneously addresses perenniality and diversity in both biophysical and sociocultural terms. Transdisciplinary civic science projects engage the public and create new decentralized learning communities that generate results across experimental categories of intellectual grounding, teaching, open-access learning, networking, resiliency, and healing expressions. This work involves continued co-creation of new digital infrastructure and educational materials as we move past the pilot stage into new, larger civic science projects, including our first project with perennial wheat, and seek to support participants across more diverse cultural contexts.

Population(s) Served

The CPG team had a breakthrough in developing a greenhouse inoculation technique and screened 3600 silphium seedlings for their ability to resist rust infection. We compare the seedling’s performance to withstanding rust in the greenhouse with those in the field in three locations. Soon we will see if the silphium rust resistance protects against other species and pathogens.
In collaboration with Hanu Pappu, and his postdoc Romana Iftikhar at Washington State University, we learned there’s a viral sequence in approximately 90% of our silphium plants. But this type of viral sequence does not generally harm the plants. Instead, there is likely a less common virus in the Caulimoviridae family that Hanu’s group will try to recover through whole genome sequencing.

Population(s) Served

A USDA – NIFA grant will fund research using public databases on plant genomics, plant chemistry, and beneficial fungi to select crop species that will grow well with silphium, Kernza®, and alfalfa. We have secured partnerships with Enel Green Power, US Solar, and Connexus Energy to study the potential of silphium plantings in solar fields as a pollinator crop for native pollinators and honeybees. As a result, we planted silphium seedlings in eight solar fields in Minnesota as part of a 3-year initiative.
We have established a collaboration between professors at Louisiana State University and at Yunnan University, to study ecological impacts of perennial rice in the United States. We shipped five rice lines to LSU. They are currently being grown in quarantine to test for bacterial pathogens. We have also secured a collaboration with Dr. Ming-shun Chen, a USDA scientist specializing in wheat pests, to test our perennial wheat lines for resistance to Hessian fly, a common wheat pest.

Population(s) Served

Where we work

Accreditations

Four Star Charity - Charity Navigator 2021

1% for the Planet 2021

Awards

Food Planet Prize 2020

Curt Bergfors Foundation

Goals & Strategy

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

Learn about the organization's key goals, strategies, capabilities, and progress.

Charting impact

Four powerful questions that require reflection about what really matters - results.

The Land Institute’s long-term vision is to fundamentally change the way we produce food by marrying agriculture and ecology. We believe it is at once necessary and possible, for the first time in history, to provide humanity with a sustainable foundation in grain agriculture. To feed humanity in the foreseeable future and beyond without soil erosion in the face of floods and droughts will require minimal greenhouse gas output and minimal non-renewable energy. To achieve this, we are working to develop a diverse, perennial grain agroecosystem that is vibrant, just, and equitable for all involved.  Possibly the most fundamental metric of progress is the completion of another growing season, involving breeding cycles of perennial grains and experiment analysis, and this grant would help sustain this impactful work.

Our strategy to achieve the goal of developing an agricultural system that can produce ample food, reduce or eliminate impacts from the disruptions and dependencies of industrial agriculture, and inform cultural change through education is multi-pronged. Utilizing traditional plant breeding methods with advanced technology, we will lead sustainable and responsible introduction of perennial grain crops in to an economically-accessible global marketplace.

While these goals are long-term and far-reaching, we measure success on our plant breeding advancements, carbon measures from fields, pest management techniques, engagement numbers for educational groups/advocates/scientists, scientific papers published and commercial marketplace integration of perennial crops. Our team of 12 PhD scientists leads a research team that both employ and engage collaboration with global subject matter experts. Internally, our small administration team works diligently to raise the necessary funds and grants that sustain our work.  With a goal as bold as “changing the way the world grows its food,” we know that partners are critical to success. The Land Institute’s research partners provide insight, data, operations support, connectivity, and an expanded community of brainpower and technical capacity. Our global partnerships spread our researchers’ knowledge and botanical germplasm across six continents with diverse climates and soil types. With our partners, we are dedicated to ensuring worldwide food security without compromising ecosystems integrity through locally adapted, perennial agriculture systems.

Since 1976, The Land Institute has been working to displace the predominant system of agriculture, one that is energy intensive and biologically destructive. What began as fledgling research organization has grown into a global leader in the world of regenerative agriculture, with 13 PhD scientists working on five perennial crop breeding programs and two ecology programs. Today, a growing list of scientific publications showcase our progress, and a global network of 40 research partners has spread our scientists’ knowledge and botanical germplasm across six continents with diverse climates and soil types. Recent breeding success has resulted in the first perennial grain crop to be actively marketed, Kernza® perennial grain. Today, Kernza can be found in consumer products across the country, and we are actively cultivating a supply chain and communications strategy to help slowly increase on-farm acreage to match market demand. This includes network building, supply chain development, and increasing investment in R&D for crop development and consumer goods. The ongoing development of this beta crop serves as proof of concept for our work as our other perennial crops progress down their own respective breeding pipelines/ The goal is to achieve a scale where Kernza® and other future perennial grain crops can have the full social, economic, and ecological impact we believe is possible. Additionally, we have recently increased our programmatic capacity with the addition of Ecosphere Studies, a program that researches the cultural and educational outreach aspects of our work. The Ecosphere Studies working team will be looking into the sociocultural and economic implications of these perennial agroecosystems, transcending the barriers between academic disciplines and helping transform educational institutions and places of learning.

Financials

The Land Institute
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Operations

The people, governance practices, and partners that make the organization tick.

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The Land Institute

Board of directors
as of 03/25/2024
SOURCE: Self-reported by organization
Board co-chair

Julia Olmstead


Board co-chair

Ruth Anne French-Hodson

Brian Donahue

Secretary; Associate Professor, Brandeis University | Gill, MA

Pete Ferrell

Owner/Operator Ferrell Ranch | Beaumont, KS

Jill Isenbarger

Chief of Staff, United Nations Foundation | Pelham, NY

Deborah Neher

Professor, Dept. of Plant and Soil Science, University of Vermont | Burlington, VT

Lennart Olsson

Professor of Geography at Lund University | Lund, Sweden

Funlola Otukoya

Treasurer, Investment Analyst, Impact and ESG Specialist, McKnight Foundation | Minneapolis, MN

Ricardo Salvador

Director and Senior Scientist for the Food and Environment Program, Union of Concerned Scientists | Washington, D.C.

Corey Samuels

Principal and Owner, IslandB Consulting | Seattle, WA

Hyacinth Diehl

Ken Levy-Church

Scholar | New York, New York

Eric Schlosser

Writer and Producer | Monterey, California

Board leadership practices

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

GuideStar worked with BoardSource, the national leader in nonprofit board leadership and governance, to create this section.

  • Board orientation and education
    Does the board conduct a formal orientation for new board members and require all board members to sign a written agreement regarding their roles, responsibilities, and expectations? Not applicable
  • CEO oversight
    Has the board conducted a formal, written assessment of the chief executive within the past year ? Not applicable
  • Ethics and transparency
    Have the board and senior staff reviewed the conflict-of-interest policy and completed and signed disclosure statements in the past year? Not applicable
  • Board composition
    Does the board ensure an inclusive board member recruitment process that results in diversity of thought and leadership? Not applicable
  • Board performance
    Has the board conducted a formal, written self-assessment of its performance within the past three years? Not applicable