Perennial grain crops are an example of a ‘transformative technology,’ in which the functionality and science of the technology differ in a fundamental manner from conventional grain crops. A review of the literature indicates that the motivation for farmer adoption of transformative technologies is complex and poorly understood. At the same time, many studies have found concern and awareness about environmental issues to be significantly and positively correlated with the adoption of no-till agriculture, organic farming and agroforestry. Building on these insights, we conducted an ex ante study of perennial wheat adoption among 11 farmers from Michigan and Ohio. Perennial wheat is not yet commercially available, so a semi-structured interview format was chosen to allow for in-depth discussions of the crop's potential characteristics and uses. Consistent with the literature on transformative technology adoption, farmers who approached us to learn more about perennial grains described soil and environmental quality as their primary motivations for doing so. Farmers suggested a total of ten different uses for perennial wheat, only one of which was mentioned specifically by interviewers. This diversity of proposed uses implied a wide range of criteria for adoption. A striking result was that the ability of perennial wheat to compete with annual wheat on the basis of yield, a focus of researchers, was brought up by only one of the interviewees, as many farmers proposed perennial wheat as a means of solving a problem for which no other crop provided an adequate solution, often by planting perennial wheat on an under-used or marginal area of the farm. This is suggestive that interacting with farmers could alter priorities in perennial grain improvement, as has occurred in other radically transformative agriculture technologies.