Isn't it a bit far-fetched to think that something so simple could have such a significant effect? Perhaps. On the other hand, just because it is simple is not a good reason to dismiss it out of hand. To see this, one has only to look at the most recent agricultural revolution—the so-called Green Revolution. That revolution began in 1943 when the Rockefeller Foundation and the Mexican government established the Cooperative Wheat Research and Production Program to improve the agricultural output of the country's farms. The program was a resounding success. Mexico went from importing half its wheat in 1943 to self-sufficiency by 1956 and, by 1964, to exporting half a million tons of wheat. That success was quickly continued in India and Pakistan where, on average, the program tripled wheat and other food crop harvests per hectare and saved perhaps a billion people from hunger and starvation.25
The program's success was due primarily to the development of high-yielding hybrid strains (produced mainly through cross-breeding) and to new agricultural techniques. The major new techniques were extensive use of chemical fertilizers, improved irrigation methods, more widespread use of heavy machinery, and the development of chemical pesticides and herbicides. A single (ongoing) program, begun in Mexico and using generally available technology, produced a tripling of crop yields over methods that had been in use for centuries.
There is reason to speculate then, that a new program, relying on perennial polycultures and using new technologies to improve crop yields, could produce a breakthrough in high-yield crops with reduced needs for machinery and chemical interventions.
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