New Roots for Agriculture
I doubt that any human activity has had a greater impact on our environment than agriculture. Agriculture has transformed the landscape over much of the habitable surface of the earth, and the unwanted byproducts of agricultural production are at the root of many of our most serious environmental problems.
Wes Jackson is a visionary who proposes nothing less than the complete overhaul and radical transformation of American agriculture. Jackson's idea is to develop an agriculture along the lines of the prairie ecosystem - an agriculture that uses a polyculture of perennial seed-bearing plants to yield edible crops while simultaneously holding and building the soil.
The polycultures that Jackson has proposed would replace much of the current chemical pesticide, nutrient, and energy inputs on which "modern" agriculture relies with natural processes. It goes without saying that Jackson's proposals have been coolly received by the agricultural establishment.
Nevertheless, research into perennial polycultures is going on right now at The Land Institute, which Jackson founded near Salina, Kansas. Jackson and other members of the Land Institute staff have authored a number of books that deserve the attention of anyone interested in new directions for agriculture.