What if farmers and other landowners could plant crops that came back on their own for two years or more, needed fewer chemicals, prevented soil erosion and eliminated the annual planting season?
Mary Smythe – one of the founders of the Climate Change Coalition of Door County – has a close tie to the push for and study of these perennial crops, so the coalition is hosting a program via Zoom on Wednesday, Sept. 22, 7 pm, to explore new approaches to agriculture and the cultural and economic systems underlying them.
The virtual program will feature four leaders in this field – Smythe’s daughter, Kathleen Smythe; Matthew Burke; Marianne Patinelli-Dubay; and Bill Vitek – who collaborated with others in writing The Perennial Turn: Contemporary Essays from the Field.
The book focuses on “natural systems and our integration with them, beginning with agriculture.” The speakers will discuss their work and the educational and agricultural initiatives of the Land Institute in Salina, Kansas, a global leader that’s been developing and promoting perennial grains and crops for almost 50 years.
In addition to not requiring destructive monocultures, Smythe said perennial hybrids have been developed that can be drought tolerant. Where a wheat plant might have a root that’s 15 or 16 inches long, for example, a native perennial silphium can have a root that’s 15 or 16 feet long.
The Land Institute is researching and advocating for the planting of its trademarked plant Kernza, as well as perennial wheat, perennial legumes and perennial rice. Perennial grains have the ability to introduce more carbon into the soil and reduce carbon release into the air by requiring less fuel in farm implements.
The free Zoom presentation will last about 45 minutes and offer time for questions through the chat function. Register at climatechangedoorcounty.com/upcoming-events to receive the Zoom link, and get a free download of the book at newperennialspublishing.org. Visit newperennials.org to find out more about the work taking root in Kansas and at Vermont’s Middlebury College.
This will be the first of two Climate Change Coalition programs on climate-friendly agriculture practices. The second will be a discussion focusing on local agriculture, to be held Jan. 12, 7 pm, at the Kress Pavilion in Egg Harbor.