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Nov. 11, 2013

Bringing perennial grain crops to Africa

MSU AgBioResearch scientist Sieg Snapp is leading a research project studying the potential benefits of introducing perennial grains to African farms.

Snapp has been researching perennial grains in Michigan for six years at the W.K. Kellogg Biological Station. Her work will span five African nations – Ghana, Mali, Malawi, Tanzania and Ethiopia – to test the viability of perennial grain growth across varied African ecosystems. The five nations were identified as “priority countries” by the U.S. Agency for International Development.

The research team will examine perennial grains’ ability to reduce soil erosion and farm labor, improve water quality and increase the storage of organic matter in soil. It also will assess the potential risk of introducing a plant species into a new environment to ensure the grains do not damage the African ecology.

The research project is funded by a $1.49 million grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

“This is something I’ve wanted to do all my life – to bring new options to farmers in Africa,” Snapp said. “I was very excited to receive this grant. Bringing this team together to test this concept, it’s what agronomy should be about – testing new options for agriculture.”