← back to tech showcase

Farming in the Highway Shoulder


On The Ray’s 18-mile stretch of roadway, maximizing all assets is a key strategy for creating a cleaner, safer highway. One of our largest assets is the land around the interstate, called the right-of-way. This space, designed to be a refuge of safe harbor for drivers in distress, can multi-task and fully utilize the land without threatening its primary purpose to drivers. One use is farming. Kernza® plants are a breakthrough from traditional annual wheat grasses and have deep 10-foot roots that helps to enrich the soil, retain clean water, and sequester carbon. Wheat straw is increasingly used as an alternative to trees and a more sustainable fiber source for making many of the highly disposable products we use every day–diapers, paper towels, toilet paper. By growing and harvesting wheat in the right-of-way, we’re creating a new economic opportunity, all while drawing down carbon.


In October of 2017, the Georgia Department of Transportation, the Kansas-based Land Institute, and The Ray implemented a 1,000 square foot pilot demonstration of perennial wheat farming. For the next three years, the pilot project, which uses Kernza® perennial grain, will be monitored by UGA’s Bachelor of Landscape Architecture Program Director and Associate Professor, Brad Davis, as well as a Master of Landscape Architecture student Matthew Quirey. The Kernza® pilot on The Ray is the first in the southeast and the first to be located in a highway roadside.


The Kernza® perennial grain pilot is only the starting point for The Ray. The Ray hopes to expand this project into a vegetative laboratory that would support a variety of pilots over the next several years. These pilots would test different seed mixes for pollinators, weed control strategies, and other innovative agricultural solutions.


Click on an image to view larger.