An indigenous farming practice may be the key to making grain production more resilient

Photo: Maddi Bazzocco/Unsplash

When humans first started building civilizations, they relied on sowing a mixture of grains as a source of food. Today, this ancient farming practice is slowly gaining popularity because of its potential to withstand the challenges of the changing climate. 

Maslins are cereal mixtures containing rice, millet, wheat, rye, barley, triticale, emmer, and grains. Back then, most farmers had no choice but to grow grains according to what is readily available in the area. The local grains are usually a mixture of different grain varieties. However, demands from industrial and commercial sectors for more uniform food types pushed many farmers to adopt a single type of grain for their fields, especially in the 19th and 20th centuries. 

A newly published research from Cornell University shows that mixing a variety of grains in a field can actually make farms more resilient to extreme weather and other challenges posed by the climate crisis. In times of drought, grains more capable of surviving dry weather will thrive, while in times of flood, grains used to excess water will continue to thrive instead. The variation of plant characteristics in a field makes the field still productive regardless of the conditions. 

Shifting from monoculture to maslins-type of cropping also boosts plant growth since the different species of grains in a field tend to complement instead of compete with resources. The research also shows that maslins may also produce more biomass and take up more carbon than typical monocultures.

While the indigenous farming practice of sowing maslins may help make grain farms climate resilient, it may take a while before the population that is used to eating a single type of grain accepts changes in their diet. 


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