Perennial Polyculture Farming

Seeds of Another Agricultural Revolution?

by James A. Dewar

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Abstract

James Dewar presents arguments in favor of perennial polyculture farming as a positive contribution to a wide variety of global problems and suggests actions that should be taken to explore that promise further. He explains perennial polyculture farming and differences between it and annual monoculture farming. He explores its association with reversing environmental degradation; redressing the loss of biodiversity; reducing worldwide hunger, malnutrition, and energy use; and improving the health and education of women and children. He also explores the feasibility of perennial polyculture farming. Perennials, as opposed to annuals, produce flowers and seeds more than once in their lifetime. In addition, perennial polycultures with mixed intercropping have continual ground cover throughout the year. While a good deal of work remains to be done to develop the promise of perennial polycultures, there is reason to believe that the promise is real, that it is particularly salient with respect to Africa — the region that could most use the promise of perennial polycultures — and that there are many elements already in place to make that promise a reality. Only lacking are greater recognition of the role that perennials could play and the will to include them in the future of agriculture.

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This research was undertaken as a piece of speculation in the RAND Frederick S. Pardee Center for Longer Range Global Policy and the Future Human Condition with funding from the endowment for the center.

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