Transforming Agriculture, Perennially

Scientific Publications

David Pimentel consistently promoted perennial grains as the future of agriculture

Author: Tim Crews & Sienna Polk

Publication: Environment, Development and Sustainability

Authors Tim Crews and Sienna Polk pay homage to influential entomologist and Cornell University professor David Pimentel, who was widely known for his numerous studies on the energetics of traditional & indigenous farming systems, as well as industrial agriculture and the need for transformative solutions including The Land Institute’s work on perennial grain agriculture.


David Pimentel was trained as an entomologist, but he was widely recognized for investigating and revealing uncomfortable knowledge on the state of global agriculture, covering topics of energy, soil erosion, biodiversity loss, pesticide contamination and energy use. While outspoken in his bold assessments of agriculture’s environmental and energetic shortcomings, he was less forthcoming with proposals for equally bold solutions. Yet one highly transformative idea that he raised repeatedly in his career after co-authoring a semi- nal paper in 1986 with researchers at The Land Institute was the breeding of perennial grain crops to replace annual grains on the landscape. In this paper, we look holistically at the work of David Pimentel to interpret his views on the prospects for plant breeders to develop perennial grains and the challenges that perennial grains could help address. As society continues to grapple with profound agricultural challenges, it is relevant that one of the last century’s most prominent and comprehensive scholars of agriculture honed in on perennial grains as the bold solution that would simultaneously address multiple complex environmental challenges while reducing human labor and fossil fuel dependency.


Share On: Share on Facebook Share on Twitter Select other ways to share