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Is the Future of Agriculture Perennial?
cecilia [dot] von_arnold [at] lucsus [dot] lu [dot] se (cecilia von Arnold)
- published 3 May 2019
There is an urgent need for agriculture to drastically reduce its negative environmental impacts, while at the same time responding to increasing demand and adapting to a changing climate. For this to be possible, radical change in how we grow our major staple crops is essential.
From the 6th through the 10th of May, about 90 specially invited researchers from around the world will meet in Lund to present and discuss progress, challenges and future avenues regarding the development and upscaling of perennial agriculture.
It’s well known that agriculture is the most damaging activity human ever invented. It is responsible for about a third of the Greenhouse gas emissions, it is a major source of toxic substances released into the environment, a leading culpit in polluting our seas, not the least the Baltic.
But not only environmental issues are the problem. Up to 90% of farmers in North America and Europe have great problem making ends meet, and many farmers in Africa and South Asia are food insecure. Inequalities are increasing in agriculture – a few large producers are reaping the benefits of technological change and policies, while the majority are struggeling to keep up.Common to many problems of agriculture is the dependence on annual crops.
Researchers at Lund University and the Land Institute in Kansas (USA) together with researchers from the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences are studying many different aspects of a shift from annual monocultures to perennial polycultures could imply.
– In the last couple of years we have witnessed how perennial grains have started to rapidly attract interest from farmers and industry, not least the perennial rice (PR23) and the proto-domesticated perennial species intermediate wheat grass (“Kernza”). This means that the time is ripe for bringing research and progressive producers together, says Lennart Olsson, professor at Lund University Centre for Sustainability Studies.
The conference "Is the Future of Agriculture perennial?" will comprise sessions in which participants representing producers, food industry, and policy, will discuss potentials and challenges of perennial polycultures. The programme also contains pre- and post- study tours to Högestad Estate (largest upscaling of Kernza cultivation to date in collaboration with LUCSUS and TLI), the SITES field station operated the Swedish University of Agricultural Science (trials of Kernza based cropping systems), and University of Copenhagen Plant Science Centre at Taastrup in Denmark.
– We hope this conference will become a stepping stone for integrated research in which academia and producers start co-producing knowledge, says Lennart Olsson.
Watch the video "Is the Future of Agriculture Perennnial" and learn more about the shift to perennial polycultures.