Transforming Agriculture, Perennially

Perennial Oilseeds

Silphium integrifolium is a perennial plant in the sunflower family native to the Great Plains and other parts of North America.

The Land Institute is domesticating silphium, which has the potential to be at least as productive as the oilseed sunflower in favorable environments.

Why Perennial Oilseeds?

  • During the dust bowl years, American botanist John Weaver noted how well silphium survived in Nebraska under extreme drought. Silphium’s long, strong roots penetrate very heavy clay soil that challenges many other species. Therefore, silphium has the ability access groundwater (when present) at depths upwards of 4-6 feet thereby eliminating the need for frequent irrigation. Silphium is much more resilient to short-term droughts (from weeks to a couple of years) than annual crops.
  • Silphium also provides good habitat for earthworms, hoverflies (pollinators and aphid-eaters), native bees, Monarch butterflies, and honeybees.
  • Because it does not spread and uses water and nutrients at different depths, Silphium is a strong candidate for intercropping systems and is expected to provide soil protection and carbon sequestration.

Research plots, such as this one focusing on plant disease, are placed along the hiking trail in the Marty Bender Nature Area of The Land Institute.

Join us by supporting this work with a donation to The Land Institute!


Project Team

David Van Tassel
Lead Scientist, Perennial Oilseeds (Silphium)

Sydney Schiffner
Research Technician, Perennial Oilseeds

Emma Flemmig
Grants Project Manager

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By designing transdisciplinary and participatory methods of engagement, The Land Institute’s Civic Science Program harnessed public participation to visualize cross-scalar relationships in gardening projects through the medium of Silphium integrifolium,…

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