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Resources 2013, 2(4), 457-488; doi:10.3390/resources2040457

Tree Crops, a Permanent Agriculture: Concepts from the Past for a Sustainable Future

1
Department of Plant Biology and Pathology, Rutgers University, Foran Hall, 59 Dudley Road, New Brunswick, NJ 08901, USA
2
Department of Biochemistry & Microbiology, Rutgers University, Lipman Hall, 76 Lipman Drive, New Brunswick, NJ 08901, USA
3
Pineview Farms, L.L.C. P.O. Box 10, Huntsville, UT 84317, USA
4
Improving Perennial Plants for Food and Bioenergy, 711 S State Street, Richmond, UT 84333, USA
Deceased.
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Received: 29 June 2013 / Revised: 26 August 2013 / Accepted: 26 August 2013 / Published: 30 September 2013
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Equitable and Sustainable Use of Genetic Resources)
View Full-Text   |   Download PDF [307 KB, uploaded 30 September 2013]   |  

Abstract

J. Russell Smith (1874–1966), a professor of geography at Columbia University, witnessed the devastation of soil erosion during his extensive travels. He first published his landmark text, Tree Crops, A Permanent Agriculture in 1929, in which he described the value of tree crops for producing food and animal feed on sloping, marginal, and rocky soils as a sustainable alternative to annual crop agriculture less suited to these lands. A cornerstone of his thesis was using wide germplasm collection and plant breeding to improve this largely underutilized and genetically unexploited group of plants to develop locally adapted, high-yielding cultivars for the many climatic zones of North America. Smith proposed an establishment of “Institutes of Mountain Agriculture” to undertake this work. For a variety of reasons, though, his ideas were not implemented to any great degree. However, our growing population’s increasing demands on natural resources and the associated environmental degradation necessitate that Smith’s ideas be revisited. In this review, his concepts, supported by modern scientific understanding and advances, are discussed and expanded upon to emphasize their largely overlooked potential to enhance world food and energy security and environmental sustainability. The discussion leads us to propose that his “institutes” be established worldwide and with an expanded scope of work.
Keywords: perennial crops; sustainable agriculture; plant breeding; genetic resources; food security; energy security; land restoration perennial crops; sustainable agriculture; plant breeding; genetic resources; food security; energy security; land restoration
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This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY 3.0).

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MDPI and ACS Style

Molnar, T.J.; Kahn, P.C.; Ford, T.M.; Funk, C.J.; Funk, C.R. Tree Crops, a Permanent Agriculture: Concepts from the Past for a Sustainable Future. Resources 2013, 2, 457-488.

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