Is the Future of Agriculture Perennial

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The root cause of many environmental problems of agriculture – greenhouse gas emission, soil erosion, nutrient leaching, water pollution, the high usage of agrochemicals – is our dependence on annual crops. Social predicaments – labour and capital intensity, dependence on expensive inputs, and subsidies – can also be attributed to annual crops. Shifting to perennial grains could dramatically improve on all these aspects. Recent advances in 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 (“perennial revolution”) when it is at odds with the economic interests of the agricultural inputs industry? I will present potentials and obstacles, and give three reasons for optimism of the future.

Lecture