Farming with Environmental Benefits
Green Lands Blue Waters is about meeting the multiple challenges of agricultural production and environmental quality. Returning more farmland to native habitat serves the environmental goals, but takes land out of production. More environmental benefits must come from farmlands in production.
Farming with Continuous Living Cover can help meet this challenge. The year-round ground cover and long-lived roots of the crops we promote help to build soil health, recycle nutrients, provide system-wide resilience against radical weather, and reduce agricultural pollution of surface and ground water – while continuing to produce food and other farm products.
Tomorrow’s farmers will better achieve Continuous Living Cover by integrating existing annual and perennial crops with new crops, including perennial grains that produce year after year without annual tilling or reseeding. Plant breeders are close to providing a viable crop from perennial relatives of wheat, and are making real progress toward perennial rice, sunflower, and sorghum.
Researchers and farmers are also experimenting with “polyculture” cropping systems where two or more species are grown together. In the not-too-distant future we should be planting fields with multiple species, annuals and perennials, and the grain, forage, and other farm products will be separated at harvest by the next generation of farming equipment.