Integrating multipurpose perennial grains crops in Western European farming systems
Publication: Agriculture, Ecosystems and Environment
Western European agriculture is largely defined by the high level of productivity of its cereal grain production. Such productivity is largely a result of farm specialization and intensification. This approach however has led to environmental problems and farm sensitivity to climatic and economic hazards. Recently, perennial grains have been promoted as a potential alternative, particularly with intermediate wheatgrass (Thinopyrum intermedium). Perennial grains bring new perspectives and innovation, and can contribute to both system diversification and environmental performance. Above all, the value of year-round ground cover and root activity, as well as the ability to harvest both grain and forage production, offers a large range of interest and potential application for such a grain crop. Realization of the potential benefits from perennial grains depends on the development of suitable seed material and the identification of tangible economic and environmental benefits coming from the integration of perennial grains into crop rotations. Although more work is needed, perennial grains are com- patible with the current European interests and policies for food security, soil health, water quality, and farmer interest in innovative practices and sustainable cropping systems.