Researcher, collaborator, and board member Lennart Olsson presented at the UK’s premier regenerative agriculture conference, Groundswell 2022, on perennial agriculture.
The root causes of many environmental problems in agriculture, like greenhouse gas emissions, soil erosion, nutrient leaching, water pollution, and high agrochemical use, come from our dependence on annual crops and cropping systems. Social predicaments, like labor and capital intensity, our dependence on expensive inputs, and government subsidies can also be attributed to annual crops.
Shifting to perennial grains could dramatically improve all these aspects. Recent advances in the domestication and breeding of new perennial grain crops show the technical feasibility of shifting to perennial crops. However, what are the prospects of such a radical shift toward this “perennial revolution” when it is at odds with the economic interests of the agricultural inputs industry?
Lennart Olsson presents potential and obstacles and gives three reasons for optimism about the future.
George Monbiot discussed his new book, Regenesis with journalist and broadcaster Lucy Siegle live from London. A team from The Land Institute was present in the live audience. Kernza® perennial grain was featured in the talk.
Monbiot opens Regenesis with a chapter on the fundamentals of soil science and covers the use of perennial rather than annual crops, i.e. crops that can be harvested multiple years in a row.
“Large areas dominated by annual plants are rare in nature. They tend to colonize ground in the wake of catastrophe […] in cultivating annuals, we must keep the land in the catastrophic state they prefer.”
Natural ecosystems are self-sustaining. For at least 10,000 years, humans have disrupted those ecosystems and kept them in a continuous state of disruption in order to feed our populations. Increasingly, the scale of those agricultural disruptions threatens to permanently degrade the ecosphere upon which we depend.
Humans didn’t plan this, nor do we intend harm. And certainly farmers and agricultural producers, along with food consumers, are caught together with other living communities and species in a food and agricultural system that has been pushed beyond its breaking point.
We believe that it doesn’t have to be this way.
Led by a team of plant breeders and ecologists working in global partnerships, we are developing new perennial crops to be grown in ecologically functional mixtures known as polycultures. Our goal is to create an agriculture that mimics many aspects of natural ecosystems in order to produce ample food and reduce the negative impacts of industrial agriculture.
From nutrient retention to carbon sequestration to weed suppression, the agriculture we are bringing to fruition promises to become a soil-forming, rather than a soil-degrading activity.
The Land Institute is a 501(c)(3) non-profit research organization founded in 1976 and based in Salina, Kansas. To enable this critical work, you may donate online or contact us at 785-823-5376 to visit with our team.
Our friends and partners at The Perennial restaurant in San Francisco have been tirelessly supporting awareness and the benefits of perennial grains, adaptive polycultures, and healthy soil systems in a very direct way – by making and serving delicious food from Kernza® perennial grain developed at The Land Institute.
The Perennial’s pastry chef Nicola Carey demonstrates how she makes Kernza® bread, from mixing the dough to serving suggestions.