When I read a recent report that the U.N. says food production may fall 25 percent by 2050 because of land degradation and loss, water scarcity and climate change, I immediately thought of our neighbor who is working to solve this problem: Wes Jackson, founder of The Land Institute in Salina, Kan. He and six plant geneticists and agronomists are developing perennial grains from such annuals as wheat, sorghum and sunflowers.
Perennials have many advantages over annual grains. Their massive 10-foot roots manage water and nutrients better and hold the soil all year from erosion. Since they regrow each spring, there is less need for fossil fuel-dependent farm machinery to plow and plant seeds. They have a longer growing season and require less fertilizer and other chemicals.
U.N. Environment Program director Achim Steiner said: “We need a revolution that boosts yields by working with rather than against nature … Simply ratcheting up the fertilizer- and pesticide-led production methods of the 20th century is unlikely to address the challenge.”
Mary Helen Korbelik