Published: April 4, 2023

Category: Regenerative Agriculture

Dwindling biodiversity is a crisis facing humanity, threatening food supply and ecosystems. Perennial agriculture addresses the crisis, boosting on-farm habitat for many pollinators, while growing rich ecosystems for microbial and fungal networks. It also benefits off-farm diversity, reducing the negative impacts of annual cropping: chemically dependent monocropping, polluted water and air, soil depletion, and destroyed habitats.

Tim Crews, chief scientist at The Land Igitute, said, “A vegetated landscape is going to accommodate species that a tilled, denuded landscape … does not.” The Institute, promoter of the  perennial wheatgrass Kernza, notes that many fruit, forage, and some vegetable crops have long been grown perennially; perennial grains, legumes, and oilseed crops are now being added.

The benefits of perennials include:

  • no need for yearly replanting/reseeding/plowing and tilling;
  • no pesticides required;
  • protection from erosion and improved soil quality;
  • reduced input and labor costs.

“Given that grains make up over 70% of our global caloric consumption, transitioning from an extractive annual model to a perennial model is the best chance we have to create a truly regenerative food future,” The Land Institute website states.

Perennial agriculture advocates combining perennial species, mimicking nature—such as alternating Kernza and alfalfa— alfalfa provides nitrogen, preventing Kernza from clumping together, which can result in lowered production. Perennial “polycultures” restore biodiversity through more diverse fungal, plant, and bird communities and more herbivorous insects.

Federal policy support is needed for creating crop safety nets, marketing opportunities, and research and development. The U.S. Department of Agriculture has awarded $60 million for agroforestry  research; the Savanna Institute will use some to develop resilient agroforestry.

The International Development Research Centre (IDRC) states that our food supply depends on roughly 150 plant species. Of those, a mere 12 provide three-fourths of the world’s food.

Source: Beyond Pesticides

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Organic & Non-GMO Insights April 2023