Monday, June 28, 2010

Take That, Monsanto: "Biggest Agricutlural Breakthrough in 10,000 Years?" (MON)

Dr. Hazlett at the Climate+Energy Project gave us the heads-up on what could be some seriously disruptive research.
From The Land Institute's Scoop:
Jerry Glover, Land Institute soil scientist, is in the national spotlight again. Written with co-lead author John Reganold, Jerry's article in the June 25th issue of Science magazine's Policy Forum section highlights the numerous advantages of perennial grain crops over their annual counterparts. "Increased Food and Ecosystem Security via Perennial Grains" states that perennial grains promise to slow the degradation of cropland as well as provide greater food security in the face of ever-harsher climates. In all, 29 scientists from the United States, Argentina, Australia, China, Mexico and Sweden collaborated on the report.
"Perennial plants generally have longer growing seasons and deeper rooting depths, and intercept, retain and utilize more of the natural precipitation," Glover writes. This is becoming even more important as farmers are forced to grow crops on marginal land more prone to soil erosion in order to feed an ever-growing population....MORE
From Washington State University:
Journal "Science": Agriculture’s Next Revolution—Perennial Grain—Within Sight
Earth-friendly perennial grain crops, which grow with less fertilizer, herbicide, fuel, and erosion than grains planted annually, could be available in two decades, according to researchers writing in the current issue of the journal Science.
Perennial grains would be one of the largest innovations in the 10,000 year history of agriculture, and could arrive even sooner with the right breeding programs, said John Reganold, a Washington State University Regents professor of soil science and lead author of the paper with Jerry Glover, a WSU-trained soil scientist now at the Land Institute in Salina, Kansas.
“It really depends on the breakthroughs,” said Reganold. “The more people involved in this, the more it cuts down the time.”
Published in Science’s influential policy forum, the paper is a call to action as half the world’s growing population lives off marginal land at risk of being degraded by annual grain production. Perennial grains, say the paper’s authors, expand farmers’ ability to sustain the ecological underpinnings of their crops.
“People talk about food security,” said Reganold. “That’s only half the issue. We need to talk about both food and ecosystem security.”
Perennial grains, say the authors, have longer growing seasons than annual crops and deeper roots that let the plants take greater advantage of precipitation. Their larger roots, which can reach ten to 12 feet down, reduce erosion, build soil and sequester carbon from the atmosphere.  They require fewer passes of farm equipment and less herbicide, key features in less developed regions.
By contrast, annual grains can lose five times as much water as perennial crops and 35 times as much nitrate, a valuable plant nutrient that can migrate from fields to pollute drinking water and create “dead zones” in surface waters....MORE
HT on the above link: Next Big Future who has more info.