The annual rhythms of planting, growing and harvesting have been a certainty for farmers since wild plants were first domesticated. With the exception of a few forage crops, doing away with the annual seeding ritual has been mostly a pipe dream.
A team of scientists at the Land Institute in Salina, Kan., is working to change that by breeding perennial versions of annual crops, such as wheat, grain sorghum and sunflowers. A crop that regrows each year would be more resilient and ecologically friendly, says Tim Crews, The Land Institute’s director of research. Perennial crops could save fuel, seed and equipment costs, and reduce erosion and runoff. While perennials’ year-round root systems might require more water than annual roots, they can also plumb greater depths in times of drought, Crews notes.
If predictions of a growing population and changing climate prove true, farmers might be forced to reconsider their annual crop patterns.
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