World Changing Ideas – Crops that don’t need replanting

Date: 2011, Scientific American
Abstract: 10 new technologies that will make a difference (see p. 47).


“Before agriculture, most of the planet was covered with plants that lived year after year. These perennials were gradually replaced by food crops that have to be replanted every year. Now scientists are contemplating reversing this shift by creating perennial versions of familiar crops such as corn and wheat. If they are successful, yields on farmland in some of the world’s most desperately poor places
could soar. The plants might also soak up some of the excess carbon in the earth’s

Agricultural scientists have dreamed of replacing annuals with equivalent perennials for decades, but the genetic technology needed to make it happen has appeared only in the past 10 or 15 years, says agroecologist Jerry Glover. Perennials
have numerous advantages over crops that must be replanted every year: their deep
roots prevent erosion, which helps soil hold onto critical minerals such as phosphorus, and they require less fertilizer and water than annuals do. Whereas conventionally grown monocrops are a source of atmospheric carbon, land planted with perennials does not require tilling, turning it into a carbon sink.”



Increased Food and Ecosystem Security via Perennial Grains

Author: Jerry D. Glover et al
Source: Science 25 June 2010: Vol. 328 no. 5986 pp. 1638-1639

“Perennial grains hold promise, especially for marginal landscapes or with limited resources where annual versions struggle.”

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Future Farming: A Return to Roots?

Abstract: Modern agriculture’s intensive land use quashes natural biodiversity and ecosystems. Meanwhile the population will balloon to between eight billion and 10 billion in the coming decades, requiring that more acres be cultivated. Replacing single-season crops with perennials would create large root systems capable of preserving the soil and would allow cultivation in areas currently considered marginal. The challenge is monumental, but if plant scientists succeed, the achievement would rival humanity’s original domestication of food crops over the past 10 millennia—and be just as revolutionary.

Author: Jerry D. Glover, Cindy M. Cox and John P. Reganold

Date: 2007, Scientific American, Inc.

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