Woody Agriculture – On the Road to a New Paradigm

Most Oil Drum readers will be familiar with the Land Institute’s work and hopes for a perennial agriculture based on future domestication of wild perennial prairie grasses. The Land Institute is a non-profit, and one of its major products is publications.

Badgersett Research Corporation (BRC) has been working over the same time period, but with a very different goal; a perennial agriculture; but based on woody plants rather than grasses. Very few are aware of this work; partly because we are a C corporation, i.e. for-profit, and publicity priorities are quite different. Why did we choose the business pathway instead of the non-profit? If our work is to have impact on the real world- it must make economic sense; and demonstrate that.

To start with the bottom line; after 30 some years of work, in 2010 the official position of The Land Institute remains that “we estimate that commercially viable perennial grain crops could be available within 20 years.” No farmers are growing any, anywhere. In the same time frame, over 500 growers across North America have made experimental plantings of Badgersett neohybrid hazelnuts, with approximately 100 of them now actually planting for crop production; last year saw the first actual machine harvest, and five universities have launched their own independent hybrid hazelnut research programs (U MN, U WI, UNL, Rutgers, OR State); all following our lead.

The reason this should be of interest to the energy community is that woody plants produce biomass, as well as seed (oil and protein). It has always been an intrinsic part of our design that various wood (and oil) components of the system would be produced as an energy crop. We are now struggling to keep up with the biomass production on our primary farms in Minnesota and Illinois. For those with concerns beyond the energy arena, we wish to point out that the woody food crops we are developing are specifically designed to be both resilient and versatile, aspects so far not included in the various proposed “dedicated” biomass energy crops.

via The Oil Drum | Woody Agriculture – On the Road to a New Paradigm.

Categories: Energy, Resources