Native Seeds Fight Food Shortage and Global Warming

A perfect storm of research and technology has emerged that when taken together may provide part of a solution to food production and global warming. The key ideas are:

1. Biodiversity increases the ability of an ecosystem to capture carbon, says Brown University.
2. There are 100's of economically important native seeds according to Lee and Maggie Arbuckle.
3. Native perennial grasses can be used as food, according to The Land Institute.
4. Harvesting perennial grasses is getting easier, with the Arbuckle Native Seedster.

Together these innovations change the framework for how we can turn sunlight and water into food. Incorporating these ideas could sequester carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, provide economic growth, improve soil health, reduce fossil fuel use, and provide sustainable and resilient food production.The journal Nature had an editorial today that called for an increase in spending on agricultural research and development, particularly agricultural systems adapted to place.

"Plenty of good agricultural science — such as locally adapted seed varieties and soil surveys — sits unused because it has not been delivered in a form adequately tailored to the end users and their limited means. Resources need to go towards coordinating and strengthening local agricultural extension services as an integral part of revamping and reintegrating the research infrastructure."

Every organism, from the smallest baby worm to the mighty old oak, plays a crucial role in the optimized functioning of an ecosystem. Studies, like the one completed at Brown, are emerging that show a diverse habitat captures more energy, and sequesters more carbon than a simple, less diverse habitat (like a monoculture).

One of the great unexplored opportunities is the cultivation of native seeds for use as food. Over 80% of native North American seeds are perennial, with roots up to six feet deep. These deep roots hold moisture through a dry spell, and allow for a rich habitat that builds priceless topsoil. The Land Institute has begun cultivating varieties for human agriculture that moves us away from planting a monoculture of annuals, to a polyculture (more diverse) of perennials.

Harvesting native seeds has always been a problem, as traditional combines simply aren't designed for the job. The Arbuckle Native Seedster, is specifically designed to pluck a polyculture. This innovative piece of equipment allows the rapid collection of native seeds, leaving behind most of the biomass for use as grazing, or for agricultural-biochar.

Learning to be 'adapted' to our place in the world is one of the fundamental challenges of our generation. Connecting the available resources is easier than ever through the internet, and blogs like TreeHugger. The 'mash-up' of technologies is just beginning. The solutions are out there, we just need to look. What solutions do you see around you?

:: Arbuckle Native Seedster
:: Nature Editorial
:: Brown University

Tags: Agriculture