The Land Institute
The Land Institute is a science-based organization with a mission. The Land, as it is affectionately called, was founded by geneticist Wes Jackson as a nonprofit organization in 1976 and set itself on a 50- to 100- year journey to solve the oldest, and now global, environmental problem: the 10,000-year-old problem of agriculture. The current agricultural paradigm takes a short-term approach and is heavily dependent on chemical applications and petroleum, and still prone to soil erosion and degradation. The Land Institute aims to change that. Through strategic application of genetics, plant breeding, and ecology, The Land Institute aims to shift agriculture to a new paradigm, one that brings more of the processes of nature’s grasslands to grain production and replaces annual grain monocultures with perennial grain polycultures. The Land Institute believes we must use nature’s ecosystems as the standard or measure if we are to build, hold, and protect soil. Humanity’s future depends on productive soil, the stuff of which we are all made.
The organization has grown over the years to its current cadre of six Ph.D. level scientists at work on plant breeding and ecology, who, in collaboration with several colleagues worldwide, have achieved significant positive results. Results from The Land’s research have recently captured the attention of the Natural Resource Council of the National Academy of Sciences, The Royal Society, and World Bank officials who have visited The Land on several occasions. The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations hosted a perennial grains workshop in Rome in 2014 for twenty-eight geneticists from around the world, including three from The Land Institute. In October 2014, The Land Institute hosted fifty scientists for a week-long workshop on “Ecological Intensification through Perennial Grains” at Estes Park, Colorado. Most attendees were young scientists in plant breeding, genetics, ecology, microbiology, and soil science addressing the research challenges for the new paradigm. The Land is clearly the intellectual home for this global paradigm.