Discussion: Prioritize perennial grain development for sustainable food production and environmental benefits

Lee R. DeHaan, James A. Anderson, Prabin Bajgain, Andrea Basche, Douglas J. Cattani, Jared Crain, Timothy E. Crews, Christophe David, Olivier Duchene, Jessica Gutknecht, Richard C. Hayes, Fengyi Hu, Jacob M. Jungers, Søren Knudsen, Wenqian Kong, Steve Larson, Per Olof Lundquist, Guangbin Luo, Allison J. Miller, Pheonah NabukaluMatthew T. Newell, Lennart Olsson, Michael Palmgren, Andrew H. Paterson, Valentin D. Picasso, Jesse A. Poland, Erik J. Sacks, Shuwen Wang, Anna Westerbergh

Research output: Contribution to journalComment/debatepeer-review


Perennial grains have potential to contribute to ecological intensification of food production by enabling the direct harvest of human-edible crops without requiring annual cycles of disturbance and replanting. Studies of prototype perennial grains and other herbaceous perennials point to the ability of agroecosystems including these crops to protect water quality, enhance wildlife habitat, build soil quality, and sequester soil carbon. However, genetic improvement of perennial grain candidates has been hindered by limited investment due to uncertainty about whether the approach is viable. As efforts to develop perennial grain crops have expanded in past decades, critiques of the approach have arisen. With a recent report of perennial rice producing yields equivalent to those of annual rice over eight consecutive harvests, many theoretical concerns have been alleviated. Some valid questions remain over the timeline for new crop development, but we argue these may be mitigated by implementation of recent technological advances in crop breeding and genetics such as low-cost genotyping, genomic selection, and genome editing. With aggressive research investment in the development of new perennial grain crops, they can be developed and deployed to provide atmospheric greenhouse gas reductions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number164975
JournalScience of the Total Environment
StatePublished - Oct 15 2023


  • Carbon sequestration
  • Climate change
  • Genome editing
  • Genomic selection
  • Intermediate wheatgrass
  • Soil quality

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pollution
  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Environmental Engineering
  • Environmental Chemistry


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