EAST LANSING, Michigan — A research team led by a Michigan State University scientist will study the potential benefits of introducing a new type of crop cultivation to farms in Africa, it was announced Monday.
The research project on perennial grain is directed by MSU AgBioResearch scientist Sieg Snapp and funded with a $1.49 million grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. The work will involve the African nations of Ethiopia, Ghana, Malawi, Mali and Tanzania.
"The idea is that if we could introduce a type of grain that grew for around 11 months, then regrew after harvest and continued to do that for several years, it would need less labor and allow for more sustainable agriculture in Africa," Snapp, a professor in the Department of Plant, Soil and Microbial Sciences, said in a statement.
Snapp has been researching perennial grains in Michigan for years. Her new work assesses risks and benefits of three perennial grains: sorghum, pigeon pea and wheat.
"Most grain crops grow for about five months out of the year, with harvest at the end of the cycle," said university spokeswoman Holly Whetstone. "They require replanting to yield a crop the following year. Cultivating these crops requires a considerable amount of work and energy, particularly for the small-scale farms that populate most of the agricultural regions in Africa."
The two-year study "is kind of a pilot project," the first step in what Stepp said she hopes is a longer project.
"This is something I've wanted to do all my life — to bring new options to farmers in Africa," Snapp said. "I was very excited to receive this grant. Bringing this team together to test this concept, it's what agronomy should be about — testing new options for agriculture."
Study details: http://bit.ly/1fwU48m