Plant, reap, repeat – and now rethink.
To produce the wheat for our bread, sunflower oil for our stir-fries and rice for our risottos, farmers follow a centuries-old practice: plant, harvest, repeat. But annual grain and oilseed crops, which die after one season, have a downside: they can damage soils and water systems and ruin wildlife habitats. That has led some plant biologists to look to wild relatives that are perennials, which live, grow and produce for multiple years. The modern wave of perennial grain domestication is a century old, but only in the last few decades have emerging genetic technologies made it more feasible.