Wheat Field, Pullman, Washington courtesy pullman-wa.com
The grain crops that we humans depend on daily to hold body and soul together are annual crops -- they have to be planted every year. They germinate, bear their delicious product, and then die off; the following year, a brand new crop is put in to take their place.
Such annual crops are high in yield, but they require vast amounts of artificial fertilizer, and their impermanence contributes to soil erosion.
Perennial grain crops, if they existed, could require less fuel, less fertilizer, less herbicide and pesticide, and help prevent erosion by remaining deeply rooted in the soil throughout the winter (and indeed for years). Perennials return nutrients to the soil, where annuals require artificial fertilizers to supplement depleted soil, and return nothing. According to a paper in the current issue of Science, perennial grains, currently being researched at a number of universities, including Washington State University (WSU), could become the norm within two decades.