Managing for Multifunctionality in Perennial Grain Crops

Matthew R. Ryan, Timothy E. Crews, Steven W. Culman, Lee R. Dehaan, Richard C. Hayes, Jacob M. Jungers, Matthew G. Bakker

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

26 Scopus citations


Plant breeders are increasing yields and improving agronomic traits in several perennial grain crops, the first of which is now being incorporated into commercial food products. Integration strategies and management guidelines are needed to optimize production of these new crops, which differ substantially from both annual grain crops and perennial forages. To offset relatively low grain yields, perennial grain cropping systems should be multifunctional. Growing perennial grains for several years to regenerate soil health before rotating to annual crops and growing perennial grains on sloped land and ecologically sensitive areas to reduce soil erosion and nutrient losses are two strategies that can provide ecosystem services and support multifunctionality. Several perennial cereals can be used to produce both grain and forage, and these dual-purpose crops can be intercropped with legumes for additional benefits. Highly diverse perennial grain polycultures can further enhance ecosystem services, but increased management complexity might limit their adoption.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)294-304
Number of pages11
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 1 2018

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This article was developed on the basis of discussions at the New Roots for Ecological Intensification conference, at Estes Park, Colorado, in October 2014. We thank Melinda Merrill and The Estes Institute, who contributed the financial resources to bring us together. We also thank Maged Nosshi and Sivaramakrishna Damaraju for their input, Amy Sheflin for preparation of the figures, and Sandra Wayman for reviewing the manuscript. This work was partially supported by a grant from NE SARE (no. LNE16-351-31064: Developing Perennial Grain Cropping Systems and Market Opportunities in The Northeast). Mention of trade names or

Publisher Copyright:
© The Author(s) 2018. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the American Institute of Biological Sciences.


  • Kernza
  • cropping system
  • intercropping
  • multifunctional
  • perennial grain

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