Thursday, May 29, 2014

The Land Institute w/ Dr. David VanTassel - Salina, KS

The Land Institute ( was founded in 1976 by Wes Jackson. The Land Institute is working to develop solutions to the “problem of agriculture” by bringing people and the land together to form a community where all three members prosper as one. The problem in agriculture boils down to how we treat the landscape. 

Presently, large scale grain production in temperate regions is limited to annual crops and is reliant on some sort of chemical or mechanical means of preparing the ground for seeding each year. According to the Land Institute’s mission statement, their purpose is to “develop an agricultural system with the ecological stability of the prairie and grain yield comparable to that from annual crops.” We met with Dr. David Van Tassel to discuss the efforts being made at The Land Institute to develop perennial grains and diverse cropping systems that incorporate multiple plant species. 

Dr. Van Tassel finished his Ph.D. in plant biology at the University of California, Davis. He joined the Land Institute in 1997. Van Tassel’s work focuses primarily on breeding of novel oilseed crops from native perennial species in the sunflower family. He has made significant progress in terms of increasing the number of seed producing flowers and seed size. Also, the oil profile and protein content of his perennial sunflowers compare favorably with conventional annual sunflower. While significant progress has been made, these crops are many years from being commercially viable.

However, challenges still remain in developing cultural practices and varieties that ensure these perennial crops utilize plant available water effectively after they have been established. In Salina, KS the availability of water is critical to crop production on non-irrigated land. The extensive root systems of these and other prairie plants allow them to tap into water that typical annual crops cannot. However, in order to produce an amount of seed comparable to annual crops, care needs to be taken to decrease competition between plants and also to mitigate the amount of water they draw early in the season to ensure they have enough come seed production time.

Wild Silphium integrifolium, a native prairie plant being bred by Dr. Van Tassel to increase
seed number and size to enhance the plant's attractiveness as a potential perennial oil seed crop.
Wild Helianthus maximiliani (Maximilian Sunflower), another perennial Sunflower species of interest to Dr. Van Tassel.

1 comment:

  1. I blog is very interesting. useful content too. Thanks for sharing this. i have a pase in Agro Products and Commodities Manufacturers
    Visit my page also

    Agriculture Product Stocks Manufacturers