Dr. Tim Crews
Director of Research
The Land Institute
Salina, Kansas


The Green Revolution of the 20th century dramatically increased crop yields, but did so in part by intensifying agronomic inputs that often eutrophied, degraded or poisoned the environment. A half century later, humanity faces two seemingly contradictory challenges: substantially increase food production while reducing its environmental impacts. Many researchers have suggested that the only way both goals can be met is through “ecological intensification,” in which information-intensive management practices utilize ecological processes to supplant purchased inputs. In practical terms, ecological intensification has often translated to greater reliance on precision fertilizer application techniques, integrated pest management, and farming approaches that strive to increase soil organic matter.  In this talk, I consider what is currently implied by the term ecological in ecological intensification.  I then suggest broadening the definition to encompass community and ecosystem-level attributes (e.g., nutrient retention and C accumulation), which are evident during succession in most native terrestrial ecosystems. Through use of modern plant breeding tools and genomics, I will discuss how it is now feasible to develop diverse perennial grain crops capable of achieving ecological functions that have remained elusive in annual grain agriculture. This new level of ecological intensification holds promise for achieving yield and environmental goals that have historically been incompatible.

You are invited to stay for a reception following the forum.