David Sands, a research scientist and professor in the Montana State University Department of Agriculture in Bozeman, determined that Indian rice grass had value-added potential for producers.
The flour of the rice grass is gluten free and--when used to make a variety of bakery products--it has fine flavor and is high in fiber and protein.
The challenge for producers of Indian rice grass was to develop a solid, reliable commodity-producer base to process high-quality seed into a nutritious, good tasting, quality product which is reliably gluten free.
Indian rice grass is a "bunch grass," used for wild-land range forage.
At the start of this project, there was a scarcity of cultivated Indian rice grass and producers willing, and able, to produce it.
In 1997, the Montana Department of Agriculture provided a $10,000 Growth Through Agriculture Grant to the MSU research team and the project leaders to investigate developing Indian rice grass into a value-added food product the emerging cooperative could produce and market.
In 1998, USDA's Agricultural Marketing Service, Federal State Market Improvement Program (FSMIP), awarded a grant of $95,000 to MSU to determine market potential of Indian rice grass as a gluten-free, perennial grain crop.
Duane Johnson, the Research Leader at the MSU Agriculture Research Center at Creston, demonstrated--through research and test plots production--that Indian rice grass could be grown as a cultivated crop.
Indian rice grass production does not reach full potential until two to three years after planting, and cautious producers were hesitant about starting to grow a new crop, especially under these conditions.
The potential producers of Indian rice grass now had a technically proficient cooperative development specialist able to work with them in their primary planned area of production.
had over 20 years' experience producing Indian rice grass seed for mine site reclamation projects and in applying direct seeding systems.
Indian rice grass is a perennial crop that does not have to be planted every year, as is the case with most currently marketed cereal grains.
Amazing Grains allows its members to plant Indian rice grass as reclamation seed, Warren notes.
Research on commercial uses of Indian rice grass was done at Montana State University-Bozeman by Dave Sands, a scientist who spurred Montina's development.
Each acre of the dryland crop yields 200 pounds of rice grass seed.