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Pufendorf Theme paved the way for ERC Advanced Grant on perennial crops

Lennart Olsson. Photo.

Professor Lennart Olsson has been awarded the prestigious ERC Advanced Grant to develop his research on perennial crops for a transition to more sustainable food system – research that was once envisioned by the Pufendorf IAS Theme Domestication.

In 2019, the Pufendorf IAS Theme Domestication organised an international conference on perennial grain agriculture in collaboration with The Land Institute, US. Some 90 participants from all continents participated, and according to Lennart Olsson, the meeting is considered a turning point of the global initiative for a perennial revolution of agriculture. In December 2022, Science announced the 10 scientific breakthroughs of the year, and one of them was the development of perennial rice as reported in an article in Nature Sustainability – the conference and the Pufendorf IAS Theme was instrumental in bringing the authors together, as well as for Lennart's continued research.  

The Pufendorf Theme was a unique opportunity. It was extremely important that we were given the opportunity and time to discuss and develop our ideas within our very motley, and interdisciplinary, group. Even if it felt at times like we were not progressing, it is now clear to me that the discussions and the work in the Theme were incredibly important for moving the process forward, says former Theme coordinator Lennart Olsson.

His newly funded research project is entitled: PERENNIAL/Is there a PERENNIAL future of agriculture? It aims to investigate opportunities and obstacles for a future transition to an agriculture based on completely new perennial crops. 
– It is about fundamentally changing our entire food system, and thus contributing to a new agricultural revolution. For 10,000 years our food has come from annual crops, even though they cause or contribute to many of the problems agriculture struggles with such as erosion, nutrient leakage, greenhouse gas emissions, high costs and vulnerability to climate change. With perennial crops, we can solve almost all of these challenges. It is also a way to change agriculture in a direction back towards a functioning ecosystem, says Lennart Olsson, Professor of Geography at Lund University Center for Sustainability Studies.

What separates this kind of project from others is that you have an enormous amount of freedom to carry out research without any demands of specific results, says Lennart Olsson.

About the ERC Advanced Grant

The European Research Council's (ERC) mission is to promote research of the highest quality through extensive and long-term funding. The grants are applied for in international competition with scientific excellence as the only selection criterion. Advanced Grants (AdG) are valid for a maximum of five years, and 2.5 million euros, and will enable the researchers to explore their most innovative and ambitious ideas.