Ours is the Age of Monoculture. Farmers reap ever-increasing annual harvests by planting hybrid varieties, pumping them up with fossil fuel fertilizers, and managing them with pesticides, herbicides and industrial machinery. A drive through rural America can appear eerily sterile -- feed corn, soybeans, wheat or cotton as far as the eye can see, uninterrupted by so much as an acre of natural habitat.

In response to grave concerns that this soil-depleting industrial food system will eventually collapse, a new vision for agriculture is emerging: the Age of Perennials. This idea rests on a transition to deep-rooted, diverse, long-lived perennial plants that cover and permanently protect the soil, and don't need to be re-seeded annually.

Rather than being mechanically imposed on the landscape, a perennial mixture would be designed around natural ecosystems' processes. Renewable resources like sunshine, groundwater management and nutrient cycling would drive the production process.

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