Is the future of agriculture perennial? Imperatives and opportunities to reinvent agriculture by shifting from annual monocultures to perennial polycultures

It is clearly necessary to make this transition. We suggest that humans now also have the capacity to do so. Agricultural landscapes could be redesigned to nourish a growing population in a warmer world, while stewarding the soil and the diversity of plants and animals that sustain us. Agriculture could provide meaningful jobs in a solar-based and circular economy while revitalizing rural communities and re-valuing the important work that farmers do for society. It could reduce soil disturbances and degradation, retain nutrients and therefore restore and maintain the ecological integrity of agricultural lands. It could rely on the use of agrochemicals – fertilizers, herbicides and pesticides – only in exceptional cases rather than as normal practice. It could be based on crop diversity in space and time and on the cultivation of hardy and resilient perennial species, reducing the risks associated with extreme weather events and pest infestations. This would not only protect ecosystems from soil erosion and environmental pollution, it would contribute to climate change mitigation through decreased agricultural inputs and increases in soil carbon sequestration. All of this is an entirely feasible vision of the future. Granted, it will be a tall order, requiring social, economic and political changes as well a technological ones, but it is a future we can choose.