Monocultures of corn and soybeans carpet 75% of the U.S. Midwest, leading to soil erosion, water pollution, and massive greenhouse gas emissions. However, a new wave of farmers is breaking the monocrop monotony by growing these annuals between long rows of perennial shrubs like American hazelnuts, which keep soils intact while harboring beneficial bugs and sequestering CO2 from the atmosphere. Hazelnuts are a huge market internationally and have big potential in the U.S. either as a snack or an oilseed, since the fatty acid profile is very similar to olive oil. Other kinds of perennial crops potentially useful in agroforestry—where annuals and perennials are grown together for mutual benefit—include chestnuts, blueberries, pawpaws and persimmons. Drive along the backroads of the U.S. Midwest and you’ll see farm fields stretching for thousands of acres. The rolling hills are sliced into straight rows, filled with the same plants all standing in line. Many farmers here are monoculture-focused, planting only corn or soybeans. These crops are annual plants; each year, fields are prepared and planted, using large amounts of energy, fertilizers, and pesticides. Excess agrochemicals seep from field to stream, polluting waterways and killing beneficial insects, while constant plowing hastens soil erosion. In […]


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