Published: April 4, 2023

Category: Regenerative Agriculture

Perennial rice is a grain developed in China through a collaborative agreement with The Land Institute. Since 2008, the institute has provided funding and scientific support to scientist Fengyi Hu, dean of agriculture at Yunnan University in China. The perennial rice developed there was released to farmers for commerical production in 2018.

Interest in developing and testing perennial grain crops has grown exponentially over the last decade. Recently, a new report in Nature Sustainability introduced a high-yielding perennial rice with impressive environmental and economic potential. Conceived by researchers in China’s Yunnan Province in 1999, the project has been aided by expertise and funding from nonprofit The Land Institute and a global research network.

Perennial crop expert Jerry Glover said, “This research marks a distinct new line of possibilities for global food production from the nearly 10,000-year single-track reliance on annual grain crops.”

Annual grain crops account for 60-80% of global farmland—and 70% of humanity’s food calories. Rice alone is consumed by 4 billion people. But producing annual grains brings huge environmental and financial costs, requiring increasing inputs of synthetic chemicals, fossil fuel energy, and labor.

“Since perennial rice can produce yields over eight consecutive harvests… this is direct evidence that developing perennial versions of grain crops is feasible,” says Lee DeHaan, lead scientist of the Kernza® project at The Land Institute. The Institute joined Yunnan Academy of Agricultural Sciences (YAAS) and the International Rice Research Institute in 2007 to develop a hybrid cross between annual, cultivated rice and a perennial rice cousin from Africa.

Perennials’ advantages over annual rice crops include long-lived production (more consecutive harvests from a single planting), comparable yields, carbon sequestration, savings on labor and inputs, and improved farmer livelihoods.

Source: The Land Institute

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Organic & Non-GMO Insights April 2023