Towards a Perennial Revolution in Agriculture

perennial wheat. Photo

A Swedish consortium will help building a new international research network – New Roots International – with the aim of promoting research, development and policies for a perennial revolution in agriculture. The consortium will be one of six institutional pillars, coordinated by The Land Institute in Salina, Kansas, USA.

When the idea of radically reinventing agriculture by developing new perennial cultivars was first presented by Wes Jackson (the co-founder and president of The Land Institute 1976 to 2016) in 1980, it was regarded by many as utopian, perhaps even crazy, but it earned him the Right Livelihood Award in 2000. Wes Jackson thought it would take at least 50 years but less than 100 years to develop the new cultivars, yet a short time compared with the 10,000 years we have relied on annual cultivars. Today, thanks to meticulous and persistent research and rapid advances in plant sciences, the vision is within reach.

- A transition from annual monocultures to perennial polycultures can be seen as a revolution in agriculture more profound than the invention of the Haber-Bosch Process for manufacturing nitrogen fertilizers, or the Green Revolution. While the earlier agricultural revolutions changed agriculture in a direction at odds with the ecological functioning of soils and landscapes, the perennial revolution holds promise of moving agriculture closer to the self-perpetuating and resilient ecosystem that once preceded agriculture, says Lennart Olsson, professor at LUCSUS and one of the initiators of the consortium. 

Rethinking and reshaping agriculture is imperative for solving the current problems of agriculture, such as soil erosion, nutrient depletion and leaching, and emission of greenhouse gases, as well as the dependency on costly and labor intensive external inputs. When realizing that our current cultivars and cropping systems will face severe and unprecedented challenges in the decades to come due to climate change, it is equally imperative to make agriculture more climate resilient. Perennial polycultures promoted by The Land Institute and its international allies in New Roots International represent our best hope to address both challenges.

Time is now ripe to take the next step toward a worldwide perennial revolution – the establishment of an international network for promoting research on all aspects of a future transition from annual monocultures to perennial polycultures.

New Roots International

New Roots International (NRI) is an international umbrella organization for promoting research with the aim of advancing a radical transformation of world agriculture, from annual monocultures to perennial polycultures. The Land Institute in Kansas, USA is the  lead organization and coordinator of the NRI. In May 2019, Lund University, together with The Land Institute, arranged an international conference in Lund. The conference gathered over 90 researchers from around the world to discuss this radical transformation - a "perennial revolution" in agriculture. The conference became an impetus for the creation of this international network, NRI, aiming at:

  • Fostering and facilitating cooperation between research groups around the world
  • Facilitating funding of research and plant breeding
  • Upscaling cultivation as well as development of products and markets for new perennial crops

Together with The Land Institute, the Swedish part of NRI is one of six institutional pillars in the global network. 

Read more about New Roots International on their website which you will find under The Land Institute : www.landinstitute.org 

New Roots International will be formally launched at a web-based event early 2021 – stay tuned.