Perennial grain cropping, or permaculture, is a form of agriculture developed to mimic natural systems. This strategy takes advantage of benefits found in natural systems, such as resilience to most perturbations, self-regulation, accumulation of "ecological capital," stable soils, carbon sequestration, nutrient cycling, food production, and biodiversity. The Land Institute was founded by Wes Jackson and is located in Kansas where prototypes of perennial grain plants are grown to test theories of natural systems agriculture. Its mission statement is, "When people, land, and community are as one, all three members prosper; when they relate not as members but as competing interests, all three are exploited. By consulting Nature as the source and measure of that membership, The Land Institute seeks to develop an agriculture that will save soil from being lost or poisoned while promoting a community life at once prosperous and enduring."The Land Institute is dedicated to research that focuses on conservation as a consequence of agriculture. Its philosophy includes melding the science of ecology with agronomy. The Land Institute is developing an agricultural system with the ecological stability of the prairie and a grain yield comparable to that of annual crops. This involves developing plants that will not only produce useful crops, but will also generate deep roots that, in turn, nourish the soil just as prairie plants do.
The development of mixed crop perennials has many benefits beyond producing nutritious food. For example, it will also aid in reducing soil erosion, decreasing dependency on petroleum and natural gas, and reducing chemicals that pollute our soil and water.
Permaculture such as that practiced by The Land Institute mimics natural ecosystem structures and functions. The tendency of all natural ecosystems is to increase their ecological wealth. For instance, when left alone, all prairies recycle materials, support their own fertility, run on sunlight, and increase biodiversity. Mass agricultural systems have replaced that kind of self-nourishing natural habitat with single plant monocultures.Monocultures suck soil dry of nutrients and also breed an environment susceptible to pest invasion and invasive species over-growth. These negative qualities trigger use of pesticides and other harmful methods of protecting the crops. By mimicking natural ecosystems, the need for harmful crop management is reduced.
Agriculture cannot be sustainable unless soil is nourished and protected from loss or damage. Perennial grain cropping does both, and does so with less irrigation water and less input of petrochemical fertilizers, herbicides, and pesticides.