New research in the journal Nature Sustainability, and a news article in NPR, detail the successful breeding and intensification of perennial rice by Chinese researchers in Yunnan, supported by The Land Institute, which is now being grow in more acres throughout southeast Asia and parts of Africa.
“This is a really big deal. This is a change in the way that we think about agriculture,” says Erik Sacks, a plant geneticist at the University of Illinois who collaborated with the Chinese scientists and co-authored the new study.”
“The Land Institute, a nonprofit group in Salina, Kansas, has led the push for perennial crops. It provided financial support for research on perennial rice at Yunnan University and has been promoting a perennial relative of wheat, which it has named Kernza.”
“For some researchers, including Sacks, the Chinese rice varieties are a sign that it’s possible to create perennial alternatives to today’s major crops. Wheat, rice, and corn, which have to be replanted each year, have nourished humanity for centuries, but growing them takes a heavy toll on the environment. Farmers generally clear their fields for planting by tilling the soil, which degrades it and exposes it to water and wind erosion.”