Can taming wild plants help feed a crowded planet?
Some scientists dream of a future in which people can add sorghum, intermediate wheatgrass and other currently wild perennial plants to their diet.
In St. Louis, researchers at the Missouri Botanical Garden and Saint Louis University are developing a list of wild perennials, which live for many years, to recommend for domestication. Researchers say such plants have the potential to make agriculture more sustainable and feed a growing human population.
“We’ve been successful in feeding people using the agriculture that’s developed to date,” said Allison Miller, associate professor of biology at Saint Louis University. “But there are other ways we might do it and those ways may be, in the long run, more sustainable.”
Miller is one of the leaders of a new three-year initiative called The Global Inventory Project, which aims to identify wild herbaceous perennial plants that could be bred for domestication. Miller said it’s unknown why wild plants were never domesticated, but they can retain soil, hold water and support diverse microbial communities. The traits make them more sustainable than conventional crops, such as corn and soy. …