Perennial Grains

 

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Perennial Grains Community of the American Society of Agronomy 

 

Over the past 10,000 years, humans have increasingly relied on cereals and other grains to provide a stable source of food. Today, grains provide about 70% of our food worldwide and occupy about 70% of agricultural lands. As our early ancestors selected plants with more and bigger seeds, their biggest successes -- with regard to ease of cultivation and taste and nutrition -- were with annual forms. However, cultivated perennial grains will have environmental advantages over their annual relatives. The deep root systems of perennial plants protect and maintain soils, and help to manage water and nutrients. Fewer passes with tractors saves on costly inputs and reduces consumption of fossil fuels.


Several GLBW partners share the goal of developing commercially viable perennial grains that can be used for human consumption and as feed for livestock. Keys to achieving this goal are: 1) plant breeding; 2) agronomic research; and 3) development of commercial products and associated businesses.  Most of the effort so far has been focused on breeding perennial grain varieties. It took humans thousands of years to develop the high yielding, easy to harvest annual varieties we grow today. Fortunately, through modern genetics tools and plant breeding techniques, we should be able to speed up the process to produce a next generation of edible grain crops that are perennial.

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