Multifunctional perennial farming systems

Project: Research

Research areas and keywords

UKÄ subject classification

  • Environmental Sciences related to Agriculture and Land-use


  • Perennial farming, Agriculture, sustainability


Climate change is affecting smallholders in many low-income countries and is expected to worsen in the future (Olsson et al., 2014). For most of them, this is a challenge that comes on top of a multitude of other stressors, including land degradation and low soil fertility. The severity and complexity of this situation requires a rethinking of the way that agricultural systems are organized (IAASTD, 2009). One solution that has been proposed is a transition to the cultivation of perennial crops, in order to transform existing agricultural practices, rebuild depleted soils, and raise agricultural yields (Reganold & Glover, 2016). Rapid progress has been made in recent years in the development of perennial varieties of important food staples such as wheat, sorghum and rice, most notably by The Land Institute (Crews et al., 2014). The adoption of these crops holds a number of promises that could be particularly beneficial in a smallholder setting, including a dramatically reduced need for tilling, increased soil organic matter, reduced dependence on agricultural inputs, decreased vulnerability to droughts, and improved soil and water conservation. The perenniation of agriculture could in this way prove a valuable climate change adaptation strategy for smallholders. By sequestering carbon in soils, it could at the same time also make an important contribution to climate change mitigation (Lal, 2002; Olsson & Ardö, 2002).Against this background, this 3-year project (2017 - 2020) aims to examine the potential of perennial-based agriculture to increase the resilience of smallholder agricultural systems while counteracting land degradation and mitigating climate change. It aims to advance ongoing research on perennial-based systems by studying the interlinked social, economic, political and biophysical dimensions of perenniation in a sub-Saharan African (SSA) smallholder context. The aim of the project is twofold: (1) to shed light on the potential social and environmental benefits (through increased resilience) that different perennial crops and cropping systems could bring for smallholder farmers, and (2) to examine the various barriers – agronomical as well as political-economic, social and cultural – that might be encountered in the implementation of this perennial vision for agriculture. In the process, the project aims to build a strong international and transdisciplinary network for long-term research collaboration on the topic of perenniation.
Effective start/end date2017/01/012020/12/31