A new type of agriculture has been proposed in Africa that complements conventional annual crops with new genetic options that grow for extended periods and can double sunlight capture, nitrogen fixation and water cycling.
This transformative approach also potentially offers a new way to address climate variability, by stabilizing grain yields and providing more forage for livestock.
Sieg Snapp, a Michigan State University professor of plant, soil and microbial sciences at Kellogg Biological Station, discussed this Feb. 16 as part of a panel at this year’s meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.
Snapp and other panelists reported on advances in perennial grain crop development, from cutting-edge genomic innovations to on-farm, real-world results, showing how science is advancing this concept toward practical reality.
“We are working to better understand what we know, what we don’t know and what we need to know about these novel types of crops,” said Snapp, whose research is providing strategies to address the needs of small-holder farmers to help them create a more sustainable food production system that is climate resilient.
Joining Snapp on the panel were Whezi Mhango, Lilongwe University of Agriculture and Natural Resources, who discussed new varieties of pigeon peas that are transforming farming in Malawi, and Andrew Paterson of the University of Georgia.
Snapp’s work is supported in part by the USAID Feed the Future Initiative, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and MSU AgBioResearch.