The crop profiles in this portal describe key perennial grain crops that have been or are currently used by African farmers, as well as candidate crops that are currently being developed and may prove useful to African smallholders in the future. Several of these crops are suited to dry climates and degraded soil conditions and have existing perennial varieties or wild perennial relatives that could provide useful source material for breeding. In the cases of sorghum, pigeon pea, and rice, there are existing systems in which these crops are ratooned – harvested once and allowed to regrow in the same calendar year for a second harvest before being tilled. Ratoon systems are an important analog to more permanent perennial cropping systems.
These profiles are based on a comprehensive assessment of the literature on perennial grains and the results of a multi-disciplinary research effort at Michigan State University to assess how perennial grains might be adopted in African smallholder contexts. Research included efforts to identify areas of high suitability using GIS and spatial statistics methods, crop modeling to understand how perennials might perform in these areas, and participatory modeling and experimental auctions to understand how smallholders might value and implement perennial grains on their farms.