Notes on perennial grain crops

Sat in on a lecture by Lee DeHaan. He works for the Land Institute in Salina Kansas.

DeHaan has spent the last thirteen years working on the development of perennial grain crops, primarily wheat. The concept is that the grain could be harvested year after year with no planting inputs required. Legumes could be interplanted with the grain to fix nitrogen and eliminate the need for commercial fertilizer.

This seems like such a practical solution to many of our ag related problems-soil erosion, herbicide use, fertilizer runoff, fossil fuel for planting. DeHaan has made progress starting with a native grass and breeding it for the yield and harvest characteristics desired. He feels there is still a lot of work to be done before the product will be available for widespread use.

I was a bit surprised at how this subject seems to be under the radar. There does not seem to be a natural constituency for promoting development of the seed. Big industry ag doesn’t have an interest since a perennial crop would greatly reduce the need for inputs including seed, chemicals, fuel and fertilizer. Universities don’t seem to have picked this up as a research topic except for some work being done at the University of Minnesota. It seems that ag departments at universities are also highly influenced by the big money from big industry ag.

This looks like a very promising research effort.