Plant to Table: Aubrey Streit Krug
"Learning the Roots of the Plants We Live By: Perennial Cultures & Perennial Grains in the Great Plains"
How do we build more just and enduring food cultures that are grounded in the sufficiency of the Great Plains? Our work begins in recognizing the few, mostly annual plants by which many of us currently live—and continues in remembering and restoring the diverse, mostly perennial plants our societies can live by for the long term. By creatively investigating the relational roots of the plants we live by in the Great Plains, we can find possibilities for a more just, perennial future in which grain crops and food systems feed people while sustaining land communities.
Streit Krug is Director of Ecosphere Studies at The Land Institute, where she leads research into how humans can learn together to develop more just cultures while realizing diverse, perennial grain agricultures in the context of the ecosphere. Streit Krug holds a PhD in English & Great Plains Studies from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.
Part of the 2023 Great Plains Conference.
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[00:00:00.120]So we're delighted this morning
[00:00:01.560]to have Dr. Aubrey Streit Krug join us.
[00:00:07.170]Aubrey, or Dr. Krug. (chuckles)
[00:00:10.560]I know her too well, so it's hard for me to say "Dr. Krug."
[00:00:14.610]Dr. Krug is director of Perennial Cultures Lab
[00:00:17.880]at the Land Institute in Salina, Kansas,
[00:00:21.597]where she leads research into how humans can learn together
[00:00:25.230]to develop more just cultures
[00:00:27.300]while realizing diverse perennial grain agricultures
[00:00:30.390]in the context of the ecosphere.
[00:00:32.520]And if you were at Taylor Keen's keynote address last night,
[00:00:36.029]Taylor Keen mentioned Aubrey Streit Krug many times,
[00:00:39.660]as well as the Land Institute where she works.
[00:00:42.608]Dr. Krug holds a PhD in English and Great Plain Studies
[00:00:48.090]from the University of Nebraska,
[00:00:49.590]and we're really delighted to have you here.
[00:00:53.280]We will probably be doing a discussion
[00:00:58.230]at the end of Dr. Krug's speech rather than a formal Q&A,
[00:01:03.885]but if you're bursting with questions,
[00:01:05.760]we may take a few Q&A as well, so thank you.
[00:01:16.950]Thank you so much.
[00:01:18.000]It's so good to be here with all of you here,
[00:01:21.840]as Dr. Jacobs said,
[00:01:24.120]in the past, present, and future homelands
[00:01:27.300]of the Otoe-Missouria and many more Indigenous nations
[00:01:31.710]here at the University of Nebraska,
[00:01:34.170]in the watershed of what my Omaha language teachers
[00:01:38.449]instructed me to understand as the (speaking Omaha)
[00:01:42.730]or the Platte River.
[00:01:45.000]Here the roots of plants have worked with sun
[00:01:48.600]and air and rocks
[00:01:50.400]to make and hold the land in which we gather and live.
[00:01:54.690]Roots like these have competed, cooperated, braced,
[00:01:59.610]and mediated exchanges of different energy and nutrients.
[00:02:03.870]They've been plowed and uprooted,
[00:02:06.600]they've decayed and turned over,
[00:02:08.940]they've been replanted and transplanted.
[00:02:12.240]So today I want to talk about roots
[00:02:14.250]because of how they matter.
[00:02:17.580]And the question that I bring to you this morning
[00:02:20.310]as we embark on the next few days
[00:02:22.770]of this conference together
[00:02:24.420]is how we create more just and enduring food cultures
[00:02:29.280]that are rooted in the sufficiency of the great plains.
[00:02:33.780]Rooted in the sufficiency of this land
[00:02:35.806]means there are living roots in the ground
[00:02:39.147]holding and building soil.
[00:02:41.460]And these are the plants
[00:02:42.510]that form the basis of our food systems.
[00:02:45.630]It means that this land can be enough,
[00:02:48.900]has the possibility to be enough, can be sufficient,
[00:02:51.810]and doesn't need to be seen as deficient or lacking.
[00:02:55.320]And food cultures means the way
[00:02:57.330]that we humans live in groups as social animals
[00:03:00.480]who need each other and who all need to eat.
[00:03:04.380]So food cultures are the patterns of behavior
[00:03:06.928]and meaning and the values that organize how we do that,
[00:03:11.100]how we provision and eat.
[00:03:14.160]And finally, more enduring food cultures
[00:03:16.680]are ones that can last, that can fit within the land.
[00:03:21.480]And those more just food cultures,
[00:03:23.670]I think are ones in which there's enough for everyone.
[00:03:26.670]No one is left behind,
[00:03:28.830]harms can be repaired and are repaired,
[00:03:32.220]and everyone has the opportunity
[00:03:33.832]to shape our collective future.
[00:03:37.140]So the question is how?
[00:03:38.898]How do we get there?
[00:03:41.100]And I'm kind of asserting here that we know something
[00:03:44.730]about what is needed or desired
[00:03:47.550]and why, you think about the reality
[00:03:50.370]of the emergency that we are facing
[00:03:51.824]socially and ecologically.
[00:03:55.260]Here in the Great Plains.
[00:03:58.770]So to me this urgent question is about how,
[00:04:01.800]the kind of methods and the pathways
[00:04:04.170]and how we pursue positive change,
[00:04:07.140]what that process is.
[00:04:10.860]So I come here not really to argue a single answer,
[00:04:14.392]definitely not to say that I know how,
[00:04:17.700]but instead to share the story of my research
[00:04:21.480]and investigation so far into this question.
[00:04:25.200]So I hope to learn more about this question
[00:04:27.720]and keep investigating it with all of you
[00:04:29.700]through this conference.
[00:04:31.230]So I wanna kind of introduce myself
[00:04:33.150]as the narrator of this story.
[00:04:36.030]My ancestors and my family
[00:04:37.522]are German Catholic immigrant settlers
[00:04:40.800]who came to Kansas in the late 19th century to farm.
[00:04:44.760]I grew up in a small town in the blue hills
[00:04:47.940]of North central Kansas,
[00:04:49.140]playing under cottonwood trees and reading a lot of books.
[00:04:52.950]Even though I've definitely driven a tractor,
[00:04:55.200]I am not a farmer.
[00:04:56.033]You would not want me driving your tractor.
[00:04:59.160]I really care deeply about plants and land
[00:05:02.490]and I wanna contribute to a good cultural
[00:05:05.040]and agricultural future for the Great Plains.
[00:05:08.010]So when I came here to the University of Nebraska
[00:05:12.090]to be a graduate student,
[00:05:13.950]to study with Fran Kay for this reason.
[00:05:16.920]So Dr. Fran Kay, professor emeritus in her book Goodlands,
[00:05:21.750]she gave us a reminder of the sufficiency of this land.
[00:05:25.950]The land is good and enough.
[00:05:28.470]So at UNL I was based in the English department.
[00:05:31.230]I met and learned with lots of other fields
[00:05:33.360]through the Center for Great Plain Studies
[00:05:35.031]and especially transformative for me
[00:05:37.680]have been the really generous teachers and colleagues
[00:05:41.220]who welcomed me into a study of UmoNhoN Iye,
[00:05:44.520]the Omaha language.
[00:05:46.110]But there's definitely many more faculty and students
[00:05:48.840]and friends and colleagues here than I can name.
[00:05:51.360]And I hope that those who are here will correct me
[00:05:53.700]and ask questions and engage.
[00:05:57.180]I'll try to also provide some references
[00:05:59.130]as I talk this morning so you can look up sources.
[00:06:02.370]But I just want you to know at the outset
[00:06:04.193]how lucky I am to be in the debt
[00:06:06.680]of so many brilliant people and places.
[00:06:10.350]Similarly, what you are looking at in this photo
[00:06:12.612]are the roots of little blue stem in a monolith
[00:06:16.920]held here on East Campus
[00:06:18.990]made in part by the ecologist John Weaver,
[00:06:21.810]who we will hear a little bit more about this morning.
[00:06:24.510]Little blue stem is my favorite grass,
[00:06:26.131]but there are so many other plants
[00:06:27.812]I wish I had the time to name.
[00:06:30.630]So I'm based now in Central Kansas
[00:06:32.930]at the Smoky Hills where I work at the Land Institute.
[00:06:35.310]I'll share more about our work,
[00:06:37.215]but just wanna name,
[00:06:38.430]as you can see in the slides here in our logo,
[00:06:41.054]roots are really core to this work.
[00:06:44.550]So these are the communities that have made it possible
[00:06:47.100]for me to even learn to ask this question
[00:06:49.590]about how we can create more just
[00:06:51.960]and enduring food cultures
[00:06:53.430]that are rooted in the Great Plains.
[00:06:56.790]And my kind of investigation into this question
[00:06:59.490]started by simply recognizing the plants that I live by.
[00:07:04.050]So I mean live by in terms of proximity,
[00:07:06.930]like these are the plants who I grew up next to
[00:07:09.952]and also in terms of economy.
[00:07:13.140]These are the plants that have made possible
[00:07:15.570]the livelihood of my farming family and community
[00:07:18.870]and many others.
[00:07:21.120]So at left here is a field all in wheat.
[00:07:25.140]It's in the midst of harvest.
[00:07:27.167]Not pictured is the combine that I was riding in
[00:07:29.837]or the truck that's gonna haul that grain to the elevator
[00:07:33.450]to go onto the commodity market.
[00:07:35.700]These annual wheat plants grew for just one year
[00:07:39.120]on these orderly lines.
[00:07:41.460]And at right is a mixed grass prairie pasture
[00:07:44.220]pictured in early summer.
[00:07:45.654]It was taken in a year with a lot more moisture
[00:07:48.930]than we have in Kansas than this one.
[00:07:50.490]So you can see some lovely milkweed in bloom,
[00:07:53.310]a lot of other grasses and forbs
[00:07:55.140]and of course one cedar snuck in by the pond.
[00:07:59.820]Not pictured are the cattle that graze this pasture
[00:08:02.670]and the semis that take them to market and feed lots
[00:08:05.730]and meat packing plants.
[00:08:07.470]So these are a mixture of perennial plants growing
[00:08:09.870]for many years.
[00:08:12.210]I grew up knowing both of these landscapes as natural,
[00:08:18.510]I saw them as beautiful, I still do.
[00:08:20.970]And I also even saw them as kind of inevitable,
[00:08:23.998]which has had to be something I've had to unlearn
[00:08:27.210]'cause I had to learn instead how they came to be,
[00:08:29.790]how they're made and remade.
[00:08:32.940]I had to learn the kind of systems
[00:08:34.513]and histories and consequences of their making.
[00:08:39.720]For me, prairie has been an entry point into learning.
[00:08:44.490]And by prairie I mean the diverse grassland ecosystems,
[00:08:48.510]the plants and creatures and in our case masal soils
[00:08:52.620]which have emerged and co-evolved
[00:08:54.570]with rocks and waters and air and climate
[00:08:57.450]and which continue to be shaped and stewarded
[00:08:59.303]by communities of people.
[00:09:02.220]Prairie has been a threshold for me.
[00:09:04.801]And as I try to cross that threshold,
[00:09:07.290]I've had to leave some ideas behind with grief,
[00:09:10.530]things I thought I knew
[00:09:11.745]or things that I thought about myself.
[00:09:14.430]And I had to instead learn to discern new ideas with joy.
[00:09:18.930]So much prairie has been lost,
[00:09:21.090]an incredible amount of tall grass prairie
[00:09:23.820]and prairie still remains in tall grass remnants
[00:09:27.090]and in mixed grass and short grass prairies.
[00:09:30.480]The researchers who came up with this framework
[00:09:32.370]of threshold concepts describe the process of learning,
[00:09:36.450]of crossing the threshold
[00:09:37.740]as something that can be really transformative.
[00:09:41.010]Things change, it can be integrative.
[00:09:42.690]You're putting things together
[00:09:43.920]that weren't put together before.
[00:09:47.070]Once you cross a threshold,
[00:09:48.570]you don't go back.
[00:09:50.220]And as troublesome because of what you have to unlearn
[00:09:53.760]or let go of.
[00:09:55.350]Learning the roots of the plants that we live by
[00:09:57.720]here in the prairie I think can be all of these things.
[00:10:02.550]So several years before I was born, Wes and Dana Jackson,
[00:10:07.860]one, a botanist and geneticist, that's Wes Jackson,
[00:10:11.015]the other feminist and a care worker, Dana Jackson,
[00:10:15.030]were learning the prairie too.
[00:10:17.820]They had come back to Kansas where they'd both grown up
[00:10:20.820]to found the Land Institute in 1976 as an alternative school
[00:10:25.800]supporting the search for sustainability.
[00:10:28.920]And in the course of this work,
[00:10:30.270]Wes found inspiration in the natural systems of the prairie
[00:10:34.020]for new roots for agriculture.
[00:10:37.020]His book of this title was first published in 1980,
[00:10:40.069]which you can see here.
[00:10:41.190]And it featured a vision for agriculture
[00:10:43.710]with deeply rooted perennial herbaceous grain crops
[00:10:47.400]grown in polycultures.
[00:10:49.170]And these in the kind of chapter
[00:10:51.510]in which he sketches out
[00:10:53.160]this kind of landscape scale vision,
[00:10:55.200]these perennial grains and fields of them
[00:10:58.590]are accompanied by traditional and ancestral crops,
[00:11:02.121]annual crops grown in bottom lands.
[00:11:04.380]They're accompanied by pastures that are reperennialized
[00:11:08.850]and support grazing communities.
[00:11:12.090]And this kind of diverse perennial grain agriculture
[00:11:15.903]in Wes' vision could support the stopping of soil erosion,
[00:11:21.000]could hold onto soil,
[00:11:22.650]could support the shift from a fossil fuel
[00:11:24.780]to a solar economy,
[00:11:26.460]and could nourish more fair human communities
[00:11:28.860]that are really connected to their local places.
[00:11:32.670]So more than 40 years later now Land Institute scientists
[00:11:37.530]have demonstrated the feasibility of part of this vision
[00:11:41.310]with proof of concept that a perennial grain could exist.
[00:11:46.560]This iconic banner illustrates annual wheat on the top
[00:11:50.880]and then perennial intermediate wheat grass.
[00:11:53.550]This is the Thinopyrum intermedium
[00:11:55.337]that's being domesticated to produce Kernza perennial grain.
[00:12:00.630]So the depth and texture of these plant's roots
[00:12:03.090]are contrasted on this black background.
[00:12:05.850]They've been removed from the context of the soil ecosphere,
[00:12:08.705]excavated from the tubes in which they were grown
[00:12:12.600]so they could be photographed
[00:12:14.250]and these roots become accessible for us to observe.
[00:12:17.280]We can look at them up close.
[00:12:19.714]If I had a banner to roll out and show you,
[00:12:22.230]you could kind of look in close and you could also compare
[00:12:24.718]the depth and size of these roots to more familiar scales
[00:12:28.116]like that of our human bodies.
[00:12:31.410]But I'd like to suggest that what we see here
[00:12:34.345]is really just the start
[00:12:36.080]of understanding the power of roots.
[00:12:38.880]In this kind of portrait of plant roots,
[00:12:40.890]we can see a snapshot in time,
[00:12:43.740]but we can also stretch beyond the kind of single moment
[00:12:46.518]and beyond just sight alone.
[00:12:49.650]Because planet roots aren't static, they're living.
[00:12:54.990]Roots matter because of their interaction.
[00:12:57.415]They're living, lively interactions and ecosystem processes
[00:13:01.980]that matter for the planet.
[00:13:04.800]Natural ecosystems featuring perenniality and diversity
[00:13:09.150]provision life through soil, and nutrient cycles and water
[00:13:13.830]and they can sustain productivity independent
[00:13:16.440]of really intensive energetic inputs like fertilizer.
[00:13:20.700]By tilling these prairie ecosystems,
[00:13:23.370]setting them back into an early successional state,
[00:13:26.670]rooting out and clearing out the perennials
[00:13:29.910]in terms of both plants and peoples.
[00:13:32.160]So we could annually plant fields,
[00:13:35.430]what we gain are annual grain crops
[00:13:38.700]and a lot of ecosystem disservices.
[00:13:42.450]In turn, restoring perenniality and diversity to ecosystems
[00:13:46.170]can help restore those processes.
[00:13:48.660]We can learn to create agro ecosystems
[00:13:50.813]that are inspired by natural systems.
[00:13:53.880]Below ground roots that grow for multiple years
[00:13:56.580]can participate in those critical interactions
[00:13:58.920]with soil and nutrients and water.
[00:14:01.290]And above ground plants can produce food
[00:14:03.093]for human creatures.
[00:14:06.600]So the Land Institute is focused
[00:14:08.400]on collaboratively developing perennial grain crops
[00:14:11.940]to grow in diverse cropping systems
[00:14:14.310]that can sustain and be stewarded
[00:14:16.260]by more just human communities
[00:14:18.930]all living within the bounds of our planet,
[00:14:21.600]our home planet.
[00:14:23.280]We're focused on grains, the hard dry, edible,
[00:14:27.300]storable seeds of cereal grasses and legumes
[00:14:30.690]and oil seeds because they provide staple foods for people.
[00:14:35.550]So there are two main pathways
[00:14:37.350]to developing perennial grains.
[00:14:39.030]The first at the top is domestication,
[00:14:41.580]which involves identifying an already perennial wild plant
[00:14:45.420]and then making selections to develop it into a crop.
[00:14:48.810]So you might select plants that have larger seed size
[00:14:52.305]or that yield more seeds.
[00:14:54.630]And I'll just foreshadow here,
[00:14:56.280]the main project I'm gonna talk about
[00:14:57.960]in the case study this morning
[00:14:59.160]is a domestication project with silphium
[00:15:01.381]as a perennial oil seed.
[00:15:03.870]And then in contrast,
[00:15:04.950]perennialization as the other kind of pathway
[00:15:07.560]involves working with an already existing
[00:15:10.260]kind of elite annual grain crop
[00:15:12.597]and hybridizing it with perennial crop wild relatives
[00:15:15.780]to bring perenniality into that crop.
[00:15:19.680]And I wanted to name a research group in China
[00:15:22.470]that the Land Institute collaborates with
[00:15:24.180]has over the last decade made incredible gains
[00:15:27.360]with perennializing rice.
[00:15:29.640]This has been featured in a recent paper
[00:15:31.260]with nature sustainability,
[00:15:32.970]really showing that they're seeing comparable yields
[00:15:36.330]with perennial rice to annual rice
[00:15:38.700]just as tasty and documenting the evidence
[00:15:41.378]for decreased inputs and labor cost.
[00:15:47.100]So the land institute's work to bring perenniality
[00:15:49.920]and diversity into grain agro ecosystems
[00:15:53.640]means that we work with grains
[00:15:54.866]and we work with cropping systems
[00:15:57.000]and we work with human communities.
[00:15:59.550]Our staff and collaborators include plant readers
[00:16:02.250]and geneticists, but also colleges, agronomists,
[00:16:05.700]social scientists, educators,
[00:16:07.800]and all kinds of different researchers
[00:16:09.630]across the disciplines.
[00:16:12.240]So these are some of my colleagues,
[00:16:14.266]many of them on staff at the Land Institute
[00:16:16.887]and our Kansas headquarters.
[00:16:18.191]And I'm working remotely around the United States.
[00:16:20.788]And I wanna give a special shout out
[00:16:23.460]to the person in the upper right corner on this slide here,
[00:16:26.730]Amy June Breesman who's here with me.
[00:16:30.240]She just joined our lab in a new position
[00:16:33.270]that we created to focus on land relations
[00:16:36.660]in the central bright plains in this home region
[00:16:39.510]to help repair and renew
[00:16:42.300]the types of intercultural connections that we need.
[00:16:46.200]So Amy June is here with me
[00:16:47.697]and I hope that you'll get to know her
[00:16:49.740]over today and tomorrow.
[00:16:52.830]We also as an organization work with research partners
[00:16:55.332]around the US and the world,
[00:16:57.630]partners on six continents who are based in colleges
[00:17:00.330]and universities and nonprofits,
[00:17:02.220]independent research groups.
[00:17:03.960]So you can see some of them in this photo from a 2019
[00:17:07.162]pre-pandemic global conference in Sweden.
[00:17:10.530]And the Land Institute has launched
[00:17:12.270]an international initiative to further grow
[00:17:15.120]and support what we envision as a kind of decentralized
[00:17:18.004]resilient global network of perennial grain research hubs
[00:17:22.082]developed and led by people in their places.
[00:17:27.120]We work with farmers and supply chain partners,
[00:17:29.627]you can see some of them here.
[00:17:32.467]This is a Kernza grower and a supply chain developer
[00:17:35.280]and journalist in a field in Kansas,
[00:17:37.871]particularly on stewardship of Kernza perennial grain,
[00:17:41.610]which is grown under a couple thousand acres,
[00:17:44.010]several thousand acres in the US
[00:17:45.630]and is being used at a range of products.
[00:17:47.970]So domestication is very much continuing and ongoing
[00:17:51.780]and as that happens farmers and businesses
[00:17:54.210]are really key partners in the research
[00:17:56.130]and development process.
[00:17:59.610]And then the last aspect of the research community
[00:18:01.680]I want to talk about
[00:18:02.640]is people who are grounded in the arts and humanities.
[00:18:06.450]So artists and teachers and philosophers
[00:18:09.150]and historians and many more
[00:18:11.040]have been active in educational projects
[00:18:13.230]like New Perennials through which
[00:18:14.970]you can find this interdisciplinary essay collection
[00:18:17.700]about the perennial turn in thought
[00:18:21.510]and in educational projects like Kernza in Context,
[00:18:25.350]which is a set of lessons and modules
[00:18:27.390]that our lab is developing to support high school
[00:18:29.937]and undergraduate teachers and students
[00:18:31.972]learning about Kernza in the context of communities,
[00:18:35.327]agro ecosystems, and earth systems.
[00:18:38.160]This effort is part of a larger Kernza cap project
[00:18:40.388]that we're really thrilled to work with Andrea Vash
[00:18:43.800]here at UNL and many other collaborators with.
[00:18:48.090]So I arrived at the Land Institute in 2017
[00:18:51.420]and as I joined and advanced the work
[00:18:53.218]of the research community and developed projects like these,
[00:18:57.090]I started to become increasingly curious
[00:18:59.247]about how to bridge the gap between knowledge and action
[00:19:04.110]as we try to grow these learning communities.
[00:19:06.900]So sometimes people talk about this
[00:19:08.400]as a problem of transfer.
[00:19:10.290]Like you might intellectually learn something,
[00:19:13.108]some knowledge, some skill and use it in one context.
[00:19:18.210]But then when you're faced with a similar problem
[00:19:21.450]in a different context or setting,
[00:19:23.140]you don't transfer that knowledge, you don't use this.
[00:19:26.610]So the way that I might explain this in a writing class
[00:19:30.000]would be I work with students in a first year writing class
[00:19:32.850]to teach and practice a concept like revision
[00:19:35.760]and then the next semester do those students
[00:19:38.910]use those revision practices in a writing project
[00:19:41.430]in a different class?
[00:19:42.570]Sometimes and sometimes not.
[00:19:45.068]So in the context of the Land Institute,
[00:19:47.610]I could introduce people to the prairie
[00:19:49.740]or take them to a Kernza field during a kind of visit
[00:19:53.550]or a weekend workshop.
[00:19:55.380]But if they weren't a plant breeder
[00:19:57.660]or if they weren't a grain farmer
[00:19:59.790]whose operation was a good fit
[00:20:01.620]for kind of early stage research
[00:20:03.360]or if they weren't an academic,
[00:20:05.220]how could the knowledge that they gained about perenniality
[00:20:08.247]and diversity really be applied in their everyday lives?
[00:20:13.110]And I think it's really not only a problem of transfer,
[00:20:15.660]it's a question of how knowledge co-creation can work.
[00:20:20.250]So it's not only how we disseminate knowledge,
[00:20:23.370]but how people can participate in the actual production
[00:20:26.490]of that knowledge in co-creation.
[00:20:28.830]So this is where this kind of question of how
[00:20:31.200]really began coming into focus for me.
[00:20:33.720]How do we grow learning through communities,
[00:20:36.530]through repeated practices and experiences?
[00:20:39.960]How could this be integrated with
[00:20:41.820]rather than kind of separate from the research process?
[00:20:44.550]Like we do the research and then we share knowledge.
[00:20:46.830]How could knowledge and learning be part of the process?
[00:20:50.430]So I started exploring transdisciplinary methods
[00:20:53.626]and that's what you're looking at here
[00:20:56.250]with the help of people like Corey Knapp
[00:20:57.990]who co-authored this review.
[00:20:59.340]Sort of naming the the ways
[00:21:02.580]that people have thought about
[00:21:03.630]transdisciplinary knowledge production.
[00:21:05.460]And you know the bedrock of this
[00:21:07.320]is indigenous and local knowledge.
[00:21:09.780]So transdisciplinary just means research
[00:21:11.636]that is not only across
[00:21:13.506]or using multiple academic disciplines
[00:21:16.890]but research outside of
[00:21:18.354]or beyond disciplines into communities,
[00:21:20.368]that's for communities,
[00:21:22.650]that's with communities, that's led by communities.
[00:21:27.720]So thinking about how I could do research differently
[00:21:31.530]and who I might be able to do it with
[00:21:34.290]led me back to reflecting first
[00:21:36.840]on the kind of dominant reality
[00:21:38.944]of our contemporary cultures.
[00:21:41.760]And it became really important for me
[00:21:44.220]to kind of try to reckon with taking in this reality,
[00:21:48.180]the reality of fossil fuels that shape our lives,
[00:21:51.540]our patterns, our norms, our food systems.
[00:21:55.110]So this image of the keystone pipeline spill in Kansas
[00:21:58.290]and Washington County in the saturation of land
[00:22:01.608]with spilled oil is really painful.
[00:22:05.730]And it's painful to think of the fossil fuels
[00:22:08.370]that power our food systems,
[00:22:10.650]especially in terms of nitrogen fertilizer.
[00:22:14.880]And the ways that as my colleague,
[00:22:16.710]the oncologist Dr. Tim Cruz has written about,
[00:22:20.340]fossil fuels have been used to kind of relax
[00:22:22.590]all of the limiting factors in agriculture.
[00:22:25.230]They allow us to continue in these annual
[00:22:28.418]and low diversity systems.
[00:22:30.810]So meanwhile scholars in the environmental humanities
[00:22:32.930]have kind of analyzed petro cultures
[00:22:35.970]and I think putting these together
[00:22:38.070]we can kind of try to take in this reality
[00:22:41.010]that we feed ourselves through petro agricultures.
[00:22:44.550]This is not sustainable.
[00:22:48.270]So we grapple with that and we can envision alternatives.
[00:22:53.190]I think of perennial cultures as an alternative
[00:22:56.010]to petro cultures.
[00:22:58.080]Perennial human cultures could endure
[00:23:00.300]within the limits of places
[00:23:01.920]rather than exceeding planetary boundaries
[00:23:04.095]and the boundaries of ecosystems.
[00:23:06.540]Perennial cultures could be fed by diverse
[00:23:09.180]and perennial landscapes and agro ecosystems
[00:23:12.360]and perennial cultures could continue to adapt
[00:23:15.122]and learn through relationships
[00:23:17.314]of sufficiency and responsibility
[00:23:19.330]rather than relationships of domination.
[00:23:22.980]My thinking about the social and cultural
[00:23:25.380]kind of possibilities of perennial grain agriculture
[00:23:28.230]has really grown through a long term collaboration
[00:23:31.108]with a Palestinian American geographer, Dr. Omar Tesdell,
[00:23:35.546]who leads a community based research group
[00:23:38.550]in the West Bank.
[00:23:39.390]And you can see us there with colleagues.
[00:23:42.300]This is a landscape of wild perennial food plants
[00:23:44.730]and perennial tree crops like olives,
[00:23:47.080]that's one of the origin places
[00:23:48.954]for annual grain agricultural systems.
[00:23:52.440]It's one of the origin places for the domestication
[00:23:55.170]of the annual wheat that my family farms.
[00:23:58.380]So in our work and in the article that I'm showing here,
[00:24:02.520]we talk about how diverse perennial grain agricultures
[00:24:05.377]could provide kind of ecological and economic
[00:24:09.523]and energetic infrastructure
[00:24:11.288]for more just perennial cultures.
[00:24:15.090]But while an agriculture that can provide food
[00:24:18.219]and sustain ecosystem processes
[00:24:21.450]could make more just cultural systems possible,
[00:24:24.743]it does not guarantee them.
[00:24:27.120]Accomplishing more sustainability in ecological terms
[00:24:30.900]can help inform and support more just cultural systems
[00:24:34.033]but it doesn't make them inevitable.
[00:24:37.083]So how do we make such outcomes more likely?
[00:24:40.110]We suggest that how we do research matters.
[00:24:43.260]That the methods and processes of research
[00:24:45.510]can be made more accessible and more inclusive.
[00:24:48.990]And our research community, I think,
[00:24:50.730]has really precious choices available to us
[00:24:52.500]that may shape if and how perennial cultures can take root.
[00:24:59.220]So at this point in the story,
[00:25:01.027]we're gonna dig into the case study
[00:25:03.240]I'm gonna focus on for the rest of my talk
[00:25:05.100]and I have to note
[00:25:06.270]that I've been talking about the research community
[00:25:08.280]all in human terms.
[00:25:09.360]It's definitely not all human.
[00:25:11.640]And I wanna introduce you to the main character,
[00:25:14.107]the kind of species I mentioned briefly earlier, silphium.
[00:25:18.391]This is silphium integrifolium,
[00:25:20.700]a native perennial prairie plant.
[00:25:22.650]It's a sunflower relative and that kind of family,
[00:25:25.980]bright yellow blossoms, pollinators enjoy.
[00:25:29.400]It's really charismatic.
[00:25:31.170]So you might be familiar with other plants
[00:25:33.450]in the silphium genus.
[00:25:35.640]Common names like compass plants
[00:25:37.620]or prairie dog or cup plant.
[00:25:40.140]Silphium integrifolium is sometimes known as rosinweed.
[00:25:44.490]And this species is the one
[00:25:45.840]that the Land institute's perennial oil seeds program
[00:25:48.510]led by Dr. David Van Tassel
[00:25:50.520]has been working on domesticating.
[00:25:53.340]So around 20 years ago as he was exploring
[00:25:55.770]a range of candidate species,
[00:25:57.270]David was interested in how silphium integrifolium
[00:25:59.895]stayed green and flowered
[00:26:01.860]when other surrounding species would go brown above ground.
[00:26:05.460]That's what you see in this photo from Chris Helser
[00:26:07.563]with the Nature Conservancy.
[00:26:10.980]So J. E. Weaver, who I mentioned earlier,
[00:26:13.500]in his foundational studies of prairie plants
[00:26:16.830]during the dust bowl noted how several,
[00:26:19.560]including silphium, were able to persist in this time.
[00:26:23.370]And Weaver described silphium and other species
[00:26:26.478]as deeply rooted.
[00:26:29.700]So David was familiar with Weaver's work
[00:26:32.310]and he tracked down drawings of silphium's deep roots
[00:26:34.852]from the 1930s.
[00:26:36.263]So integrifolium are the two sort of middle images
[00:26:39.723]that you're seeing there on the slide.
[00:26:43.320]And then over on the other side is a 21st century photograph
[00:26:46.800]from the Land Institute of a silphium research plot,
[00:26:49.230]which we kind of excavated soil.
[00:26:51.120]You can see those lovely horizons to reveal silphium roots.
[00:26:55.470]These silphium are in their first year of growth
[00:26:58.020]where they form a rosette
[00:26:59.370]and then it's in the second year
[00:27:00.600]that they bolt and send up that stalk to flower
[00:27:02.449]and produce seed.
[00:27:05.670]The seeds are fairly large,
[00:27:07.380]which attracted David's attention
[00:27:09.284]and interest as a crop domesticator.
[00:27:12.030]So he and his team collected wild silphium seeds,
[00:27:14.850]especially in Kansas and Nebraska,
[00:27:17.130]and began growing them out and selecting them
[00:27:19.770]for the characteristics that they desired,
[00:27:21.671]like seed size, mount.
[00:27:24.120]They tasted the seeds, they are tasty.
[00:27:26.352]So that was promising as well.
[00:27:29.155]You can see that processing them is a little tricky however.
[00:27:33.240]They were encouraged by early results
[00:27:35.580]and by seeing silphium survive and thrive
[00:27:38.160]in some very dry years in Kansas.
[00:27:40.920]But then there was a development in the plot
[00:27:43.982]and a plot development in the story,
[00:27:46.020]they started to see problems.
[00:27:48.180]By witnessing some of the effects,
[00:27:50.606]David and his team started learning about a specialist moth
[00:27:54.090]Eucosma, that feeds on almost all parts of silphium.
[00:27:57.900]They started to see different diseases, fungus,
[00:28:01.560]especially in wet years.
[00:28:03.030]And they also started to see
[00:28:04.110]some kind of strangely twisted plant leaves,
[00:28:06.480]which they suspected could be due to a viral pathogen.
[00:28:10.530]David's research plots were concentrated in Kansas
[00:28:13.590]and he was eager to understand what was happening there,
[00:28:17.040]but also what would happen with silphium
[00:28:18.770]in other places and environments.
[00:28:20.850]To get a clearer picture of these kind of pest
[00:28:22.920]and pathogen issues,
[00:28:24.600]he needed to find more and different silphium eco types
[00:28:28.590]to broaden the kind of genetic basis
[00:28:30.660]of the domestication program,
[00:28:32.250]maybe find plans with potential disease
[00:28:34.290]or pest tolerance resistance.
[00:28:37.080]And he needed more growing environments
[00:28:38.850]to study silphium to produce and conserve seeds.
[00:28:41.910]But he was short on resources like many researchers
[00:28:45.420]and that kind of circumvented the more conventional approach
[00:28:49.500]of renting land or using research stations.
[00:28:54.570]as I was exploring kind of transdisciplinary methods,
[00:28:57.570]I was thinking about other ways we could support learning
[00:29:00.960]and one weekend in, I think it was early 2019,
[00:29:05.010]I designed and facilitated an artist workshop
[00:29:08.760]and we had one of these artists, Carmen Christina Moreno,
[00:29:13.080]who gave an incredible presentation about her work
[00:29:15.750]in using a framework of civic science
[00:29:18.150]and that really interested and inspired me.
[00:29:21.000]So David and I are colleagues and friends.
[00:29:23.310]We frequently take walks together to talk about ideas.
[00:29:25.890]On one of these walks in the prairie,
[00:29:28.080]we hatch a plan for kind of an experimental civic science
[00:29:31.590]project with silphium.
[00:29:34.290]So in a pilot project we invited people we knew or met
[00:29:38.130]to grow small plots of silphium in their backyards
[00:29:40.830]and community gardens.
[00:29:42.300]We asked them to monitor the survival and health
[00:29:45.030]and share their responses
[00:29:46.560]about what they noticed and learned.
[00:29:48.750]We found about 35 people,
[00:29:50.412]some of them shared silphium seedlings with their friends.
[00:29:53.820]So we had about 45 peoples, 46 to start,
[00:29:57.150]across 18 US states
[00:29:58.740]who planted close to 600 silphium seedlings.
[00:30:02.370]Some of these people had heard of silphium before
[00:30:04.890]but most had never really engaged with silphium
[00:30:07.110]the way that David had,
[00:30:08.430]growing and caring for this plant
[00:30:09.780]on a daily basis for years.
[00:30:12.210]So we were really excited that people were willing to try,
[00:30:14.880]but we weren't sure what was gonna happen.
[00:30:17.160]We just knew we were gonna learn.
[00:30:18.240]So as you can see,
[00:30:20.010]and this is the kind of recruitment email David sent
[00:30:22.320]to our colleagues at the Land Institute,
[00:30:24.480]David reassured us that silphium seedlings
[00:30:26.850]all understand the risk
[00:30:28.260]and are resolved to carry out their mission.
[00:30:30.330]We sent them out to all these different places.
[00:30:33.570]You might also see in this email that I recruited my mom
[00:30:36.990]for the silphium Civic Science pilot project.
[00:30:38.999]She and my dad have always been really curious about
[00:30:41.880]and supportive of my work
[00:30:43.080]and I thought this way they could learn about it firsthand
[00:30:46.020]and plant some silphium on our farm.
[00:30:48.090]And I also knew my mom would tell me the truth.
[00:30:50.004]If this made no sense, she would tell that to me
[00:30:53.610]if she couldn't understand the instructions,
[00:30:55.350]she would be honest.
[00:30:57.030]I also planted some silphium in my backyard
[00:30:59.377]and cared for them with my son.
[00:31:02.220]So you might be able to see the sort of hand lettered
[00:31:04.633]plant sign he made when he was just learning how to write.
[00:31:08.310]He's a lot bigger now.
[00:31:09.750]And our silphium civic science pilot project
[00:31:12.078]was just in its second year
[00:31:13.850]the spring that Covid 19 emerged as a global pandemic.
[00:31:17.730]So people were suddenly home a lot more.
[00:31:21.810]In my home place, I have memories of many plants growing up,
[00:31:25.108]crops and weeds are the ones I knew the best by name.
[00:31:29.250]It seems like I've always known wide weed,
[00:31:32.280]but I don't really have any childhood memories of silphium
[00:31:34.860]and I've really only gotten to know silphium
[00:31:36.900]through my work at the Land Institute.
[00:31:39.060]And maybe that's because silphium,
[00:31:41.160]the plants in the silphium genus
[00:31:42.494]tend to be really palatable as forage for livestock
[00:31:45.450]so I usually only see compass plant in the ditches
[00:31:49.560]or in prairie preserves
[00:31:50.790]'cause it's grazed off in the pastures.
[00:31:52.890]But it's also probably because I took this plant for granted
[00:31:56.160]an overlooked silphium.
[00:31:58.020]So I was really delighted to find this herbarium specimen
[00:32:00.815]collected in 1894 in Kansas on the bank
[00:32:04.650]of the south fork of the Solomon River in Osborn County.
[00:32:08.220]So this is my home watershed.
[00:32:10.104]It's in cod honey homelands
[00:32:12.690]in what the Omaha called (speaking Omaha)
[00:32:15.641]that flows into Waconda Springs.
[00:32:18.750]This is near where my ancestors came to Kansas to farm
[00:32:21.166]and have lived ever since.
[00:32:23.130]And my dad currently still rents
[00:32:24.720]and farms land right along the south fork.
[00:32:27.060]So silphium has been my neighbor.
[00:32:30.270]And it's a neighbor to all of you right now too
[00:32:33.900]because it's plenty around where we are in the moment.
[00:32:39.720]So I wanted to share also this herbarium specimen
[00:32:41.555]from here in Lancaster County
[00:32:43.950]collected about a century later
[00:32:45.330]by the late Dr. Robert Call out west of Rancho Lake.
[00:32:52.560]So the collection and the kind of preservation
[00:32:54.774]of silphium herbarium specimens,
[00:32:57.090]like the kind of tending of these research plots
[00:32:59.430]through the weeding and the watering and observing
[00:33:01.471]and measuring this can be understood as care work.
[00:33:05.640]And I begin to realize and clarify how care is work.
[00:33:09.750]Skilled work through the silphium civic science project.
[00:33:14.430]Care is usually understood in terms of healthcare,
[00:33:17.520]caring for children, housework,
[00:33:19.680]it's physical and emotional and ethical
[00:33:22.740]and care is the kind of work
[00:33:24.150]that you have to do over and over.
[00:33:26.400]It doesn't really ever get done.
[00:33:28.036]You have to do it on a daily basis for life to continue.
[00:33:31.980]Care work tends to be mostly done by women and girls
[00:33:34.716]and to be made invisible and to not be valued equitably.
[00:33:39.180]So as I began thinking and learning about care work,
[00:33:42.000]I started to think about how we could perceive care work
[00:33:44.730]more clearly and distribute it more fairly.
[00:33:47.670]In the case of agricultural research,
[00:33:49.680]how can we care for the plants who care for us
[00:33:53.010]and the people who care for plants?
[00:33:56.100]Taking in as much as we can and more of the reality
[00:33:59.670]of social ecological emergency,
[00:34:01.920]how do we sustain our motivation
[00:34:03.900]to keep doing the work of caring
[00:34:06.300]and keeping possibilities open for a decent future?
[00:34:09.960]For me, the kind of practical work of caring for silphium
[00:34:13.170]and community and the chance to advance kind of long term
[00:34:18.000]cultural and agricultural change by learning the roots
[00:34:21.120]of the plants we could live by remains really motivating.
[00:34:25.110]And I think that that can be a big thing to say,
[00:34:28.170]but even in really practical terms,
[00:34:30.120]they just wanna name the type of care work
[00:34:32.100]and attention done by our silphium civic scientist
[00:34:35.699]who are not professional scientists,
[00:34:37.440]who are volunteers and who have really successfully
[00:34:39.870]made observations about plant health and disease.
[00:34:42.990]So we created through the crop protection oncology
[00:34:46.080]and genetics teams,
[00:34:47.280]the kind of first ever guide to pathogens and pests
[00:34:50.460]and pollinators to support the data collection.
[00:34:54.090]And meanwhile, our civic scientists also developed
[00:34:56.610]their own educational materials like plot signage,
[00:34:59.491]which we haven't really thought to include.
[00:35:02.130]And we learned about how participating
[00:35:04.500]in scientific research was motivating for them
[00:35:07.440]and how they were really motivated to think
[00:35:09.720]about what this work could mean in their places
[00:35:15.420]We developed silphium phenology and harvest instructions,
[00:35:18.393]guiding civic scientists to know when their seed heads
[00:35:21.525]would be ready to gather.
[00:35:23.250]So you can sort of see the development
[00:35:24.900]of the blossoms over time.
[00:35:27.780]And then we were really thrilled that the project worked.
[00:35:31.020]We received silphium seeds back in the mail
[00:35:33.210]at the end of the second year.
[00:35:34.950]So we've been communicating with civic scientists throughout
[00:35:37.530]through a whole bunch of different mediums,
[00:35:39.150]emails and phone calls and Google survey forms.
[00:35:42.089]And we requested throughout a lot of feedback
[00:35:45.330]and tried to keep applying it
[00:35:46.740]to improve the project where we could
[00:35:49.020]or to inform future projects.
[00:35:51.360]We tracked engagement and over time the core group
[00:35:54.660]of civic scientists decreased.
[00:35:56.415]Some people were really dedicated and able to persist
[00:35:59.760]and other people, their interests changed, they moved,
[00:36:02.430]their plants didn't survive.
[00:36:04.290]We started to grapple with how you steward
[00:36:06.600]all of this quantitative and qualitative data.
[00:36:09.930]And we worked to return the project results
[00:36:11.990]to civic scientists and try to share back
[00:36:15.210]kind of lessons and stories and findings.
[00:36:18.960]So just silphium challenged me to start understanding
[00:36:21.990]care work in new ways, silphium also inspired our team
[00:36:25.770]to grow our knowledge about what domestication means.
[00:36:29.610]So rather than just defining domestication
[00:36:31.465]as the genetic changes in plants
[00:36:33.940]that happen through a selection process,
[00:36:36.660]we described it as a human plant relationship
[00:36:39.210]and process that involves genetic
[00:36:41.790]and agronomic and cultural change.
[00:36:44.670]People have to culturally value crops,
[00:36:46.747]they have to want to eat them,
[00:36:49.290]find them to easily, find them economically valuable,
[00:36:51.990]and that kind of cultural valuation
[00:36:54.210]can drive domestication processes.
[00:36:56.310]So in this article we look at numerous case studies,
[00:37:01.470]which I've kind of highlighted here.
[00:37:03.270]Genetically recurrent selection has been underway.
[00:37:06.840]Agronomic knowledge is only kind of beginning
[00:37:11.010]I wanna note the ethno botanical records of medicinal use,
[00:37:14.670]which I'm gonna come back to.
[00:37:17.700]So we continue to consider both the practice
[00:37:20.430]and theory of domestication.
[00:37:22.233]So this is a a version of what's kind of building
[00:37:25.770]on a classic domestication triangle
[00:37:28.300]illustrating how important plants and ecosystems
[00:37:31.766]and people are in domestication processes.
[00:37:35.760]So domestication over the past several millennia
[00:37:38.460]has had really detrimental effects
[00:37:40.500]on diversity at many scales,
[00:37:42.960]but done differently crop domestication
[00:37:46.320]can have different effects
[00:37:47.610]and can help build the more diverse food systems
[00:37:49.767]that people need in the Anthropocene.
[00:37:52.620]And I think human food cultures and cuisines
[00:37:54.780]can play a really vital role in improving resilience,
[00:37:57.990]sustainability, nutrition and equity,
[00:38:00.000]including here on the Great Plains.
[00:38:04.050]So I'm gonna show a few images
[00:38:05.370]to try to help you get a picture of the civic science method
[00:38:09.724]that we've been developing.
[00:38:12.330]So we've first of all been kind of organizing it
[00:38:15.120]in really busy drawings like this
[00:38:17.130]to try to put together all the different streams of data,
[00:38:19.860]the multiple years that people are growing plants
[00:38:22.602]and the kinds of science that's happening,
[00:38:25.860]the community that's forming, and the stories that result.
[00:38:31.200]Another way to kind of illustrate this
[00:38:33.570]is to think about the infrastructure
[00:38:35.640]that's needed to support a more democratic
[00:38:37.809]and accessible domestication process.
[00:38:39.844]So we collaborate with folks
[00:38:41.880]at Colorado State's CitSci.org,
[00:38:44.430]which is an open science digital platform
[00:38:46.530]and app to host our projects
[00:38:48.393]and are working with them to think about how data
[00:38:51.180]and stories are submitted and governed and visualized.
[00:38:55.110]So that's another way we're thinking about this process,
[00:38:59.700]but I think maybe a timeline could be useful
[00:39:02.610]just to see the kind of domestication process for silphium.
[00:39:06.060]So I've talked about some of these early parts
[00:39:09.660]of the timeline.
[00:39:10.680]In later years, the silphium team collected
[00:39:14.160]and continues to keep collecting wild eco types.
[00:39:17.100]These are really important for building diversity
[00:39:19.680]in a domestication program and for landscape restoration.
[00:39:23.190]And to conserve them,
[00:39:24.270]these eco types need to be grown in isolation
[00:39:26.520]so they don't cross with each other.
[00:39:28.350]We've realized this should be the next phase
[00:39:30.598]of growing civic science research.
[00:39:33.305]And in 2020 began a silphium conservation community.
[00:39:37.950]So we understand civic scientists
[00:39:39.385]as contributors to what we hope will be a longer,
[00:39:43.710]more inclusive and successful ongoing story
[00:39:46.794]of domesticating silphium.
[00:39:50.520]Here's another way we tried to think about illustrating
[00:39:53.010]the kind of work of conservation
[00:39:55.410]in silphium civic science through a kind of journey map
[00:39:58.620]for the plants and researchers
[00:40:00.150]and civic scientists in this conservation community.
[00:40:03.480]So we develop the project as researchers
[00:40:06.153]and collect seeds and propagate seedlings,
[00:40:09.900]welcome people in and send them those seedlings
[00:40:12.109]and educational materials like a print field guide.
[00:40:15.810]That print field guide includes things
[00:40:17.640]like the domestication timeline I just showed you
[00:40:20.160]and access to different data sheets.
[00:40:22.710]And then we receive feedback and share updates
[00:40:25.440]and stories and results through maps
[00:40:27.960]and site visits and webinars and community calls.
[00:40:31.080]And we receive and steward the seed sent back to us
[00:40:33.660]making that seed available for the community.
[00:40:38.370]So here is recent field guide in the timeline
[00:40:41.940]for our 2023 season, which we're just starting.
[00:40:45.030]We're adding more eco types to the community this year,
[00:40:47.910]and this is just one year in a multi-year project.
[00:40:51.240]So the kind of perennial nature of our project
[00:40:53.700]means that we face a lot of different challenges
[00:40:55.800]from citizen science work
[00:40:57.450]where you might just make a one-time observation of a bird
[00:41:00.360]or a one-time measurement of water quality in a stream.
[00:41:03.570]We're asking people to do the work of caring for plants
[00:41:05.501]for multiple years.
[00:41:07.650]So to support that,
[00:41:08.850]we've tried to streamline which tasks are essential,
[00:41:11.610]which are optional.
[00:41:13.170]And in a new project we are designing,
[00:41:15.480]we've secured funding to help study the impacts
[00:41:18.360]of providing civic scientists with small stipends
[00:41:21.030]to better recognize and support their care work.
[00:41:25.080]So here is where we have silphium civic scientists right now
[00:41:29.416]doing conservation work.
[00:41:30.698]And as you can see,
[00:41:31.800]our main research questions are focused on conservation
[00:41:34.620]and disease monitoring and community learning.
[00:41:37.200]And ultimately we are testing civic science
[00:41:40.380]as a method to see if there's evidence
[00:41:42.725]this is a really viable way to advance crop domestication
[00:41:47.130]that's more efficient, more resilient, more inclusive,
[00:41:49.723]and we have to learn whether that's actually the case.
[00:41:54.090]We did have great success last year
[00:41:55.650]with some disease photo days
[00:41:57.090]and are featuring them again this year.
[00:41:59.490]So civic scientists take pictures of leaves
[00:42:01.860]that look unhealthy.
[00:42:02.880]Our crop protection genetics team reviews those photos
[00:42:05.336]and request samples from the special sites of interest.
[00:42:09.000]We have a shipping system set up
[00:42:10.560]so people can easily and freely send us samples and seeds.
[00:42:15.600]And you can see some of our civic scientists photos here
[00:42:18.360]with some very beautiful
[00:42:20.520]and also some potentially likely diseased plants.
[00:42:25.620]Our civic scientists engage a lot with their local
[00:42:29.010]and digital communities.
[00:42:30.360]So you can see some social media posts
[00:42:32.730]and public ones where people are teaching their followers
[00:42:35.970]about silphium and insect interactions
[00:42:38.400]and kind of modeling our approach of learning by doing.
[00:42:42.097]"I'm not sure I'm doing it right, but I'm doing it"
[00:42:44.440]is the ethos.
[00:42:47.670]So I wanted to highlight just a couple of the stories
[00:42:50.078]that have emerged from civic scientists.
[00:42:52.440]These are two recent kind of co-authored publications.
[00:42:56.250]The first is from Kansas City based artist Casey Whittier,
[00:43:00.000]who really brings a full-bodied curiosity to this work
[00:43:03.750]of what's called Sensing Silphium.
[00:43:05.850]And you can see Casey in her backyard
[00:43:07.380]with her silphium plants.
[00:43:09.180]So in this essay she writes,
[00:43:11.827]"I've replaced my own garden expectations for perfect blooms
[00:43:15.810]and lush greenery with empathy and a perennial curiosity.
[00:43:20.100]Civic science has given me a model for gardening
[00:43:22.590]that's less about control and more about witnessing."
[00:43:27.990]Meanwhile, Ellie Irons, a civic scientist
[00:43:31.350]who works in the US northeast,
[00:43:32.782]who's trained in interdisciplinary research,
[00:43:35.010]planted silphium as part of an ongoing project
[00:43:37.143]she has called the Unwaning Project.
[00:43:39.960]And she created a video to kind of tell the story
[00:43:43.260]of her plot in learning.
[00:43:45.001]Together my colleague Hana Anderson and I worked with Ellie
[00:43:48.900]to put together a kind of eco critical approach
[00:43:51.240]using a framework frame of humanities
[00:43:53.400]to analyze the scales of relationship
[00:43:55.409]evident in Ellie's creative work
[00:43:57.930]and identify kind of contradictions in scale.
[00:44:01.170]So we reflected and noticed
[00:44:02.910]how we are practicing caring relationships with silphium
[00:44:06.480]and maybe in a particular place and plot,
[00:44:09.180]but at the same time,
[00:44:10.110]we're complicit in these non-caring relationships
[00:44:12.427]between human cultures at continental and global cycles.
[00:44:17.970]So we are asking what might communities
[00:44:20.940]that feature caring
[00:44:22.230]and responsible human silphium relationships look
[00:44:25.080]and feel like in a future
[00:44:26.880]without the fossil fueled systems
[00:44:28.620]that currently help power our lives, our work,
[00:44:31.770]and the digital infrastructure,
[00:44:33.390]the kind of data sheets and app that we're using
[00:44:35.490]to make a decentralized network possible.
[00:44:39.480]So I mentioned earlier the ethno botanical work.
[00:44:43.740]This is an ongoing and deep interest of mine.
[00:44:46.290]And as we are inviting people like Casey and Ellie
[00:44:49.770]and so many others to form new relationships with silphium,
[00:44:53.700]my curiosity has only grown about the historical
[00:44:57.062]and contemporary human cultural stories of relationship
[00:45:01.650]with this native perennial prairie plant
[00:45:03.780]which grows in such a wide range of indigenous homelands
[00:45:07.320]which you'll see in a moment.
[00:45:08.700]In the western scientific literature,
[00:45:10.680]the only documented uses for silphium integrifolium
[00:45:13.467]and this particular species,
[00:45:15.060]there's others across the silphium genus,
[00:45:17.400]are with the Meskwaki.
[00:45:18.830]They're recorded by Huron Smith in the early 20th century.
[00:45:22.440]So you can see the database entry for that.
[00:45:26.460]But I think that we need to consider in more depth
[00:45:28.977]the cultural context for crop development.
[00:45:32.400]So we've been supporting and collaborating
[00:45:34.890]with ethnobotanist, Dr. Kelly Kichner
[00:45:36.705]and graduate student Marcella Paevalla
[00:45:39.230]in the indigenous studies program
[00:45:40.830]at the University of Kansas.
[00:45:43.110]So far they've reviewed the literature
[00:45:44.910]and consulted with experts to compile about 65 uses
[00:45:48.198]of silphium in the genus.
[00:45:50.760]So this includes integrifolium,
[00:45:52.290]but also perfoliatum, and laciniatum and others
[00:45:56.190]by multiple indigenous nations.
[00:45:58.710]The majority of these uses are medicinal uses
[00:46:02.310]involving the roots of silphium.
[00:46:04.260]So that's the graph the parts of silphium used
[00:46:06.540]that you see here.
[00:46:07.980]We have not yet found uses of silphium seeds as human food.
[00:46:13.500]As we do our homework first as researchers
[00:46:16.110]to better understand what is known,
[00:46:18.120]I think this is the basis
[00:46:19.770]for being able to share this knowledge,
[00:46:22.470]to seek to understand ongoing
[00:46:24.630]and dynamic cultural relationships with silphium
[00:46:27.570]that communities may be interested in sharing
[00:46:30.090]or may decide that they don't wish to share.
[00:46:32.518]And hopefully to see if there is interest in partnering
[00:46:35.700]with communities who might like to renew relationships
[00:46:38.550]or engage in silphium conservation and research.
[00:46:42.540]So the distribution of silphium integrifolium is quite broad
[00:46:45.943]as you can see in this map.
[00:46:48.930]This is just for integrifolium
[00:46:51.180]and since the initial germplasm collections
[00:46:54.180]for domestication were focused
[00:46:55.890]in that kind of western part of this range
[00:46:57.750]in Kansas and Nebraska,
[00:46:59.250]there has been efforts to collect more in the east
[00:47:01.350]and south, but I just want you to get a sense
[00:47:04.350]of the kind of continental scale
[00:47:07.680]of which ranges of this plant
[00:47:09.420]to think about the kind of homelands
[00:47:11.460]which this plant has grown.
[00:47:13.170]Recent genetic research,
[00:47:14.520]which is the Botany article I've put up here,
[00:47:17.550]indicates that this plant species didn't originate
[00:47:20.220]in the prairie, but rather in the American Southeast.
[00:47:23.850]So as we consider this kind of evolutionary origin,
[00:47:27.360]that's the center of diversity for silphium integrifolium,
[00:47:30.900]it's an opportunity to contemplate again deep time
[00:47:34.130]in the movement of species and peoples.
[00:47:36.960]Roots are not static.
[00:47:40.560]Roots are also still mysterious.
[00:47:43.110]So here's David Vantassle in the Land Institute Greenhouse
[00:47:46.500]showing some silphium roots to our friend
[00:47:48.570]and collaborator, Susan Mayo.
[00:47:50.430]And I really resonate with the look on Susan's face
[00:47:52.937]of awe and wonder, a little bafflement.
[00:47:56.700]The depth of these roots are impressive
[00:47:58.860]and we don't know for sure what these roots are all doing
[00:48:02.190]or how they might be changing during domestication
[00:48:05.700]in selection for kind of above ground traits.
[00:48:08.160]So through the work of prairietologists
[00:48:10.707]we know that forbs likes may be using roots
[00:48:14.280]to get at water at deeper levels than grasses do,
[00:48:17.250]but we don't know how important that is for them
[00:48:20.010]or to what depth they're actually pulling water from.
[00:48:24.030]So some of the work in recent emerging institute
[00:48:28.110]is exploring just this,
[00:48:29.550]the New Roots for Restoration Biology Integration Institute
[00:48:33.120]is really studying kind of questions
[00:48:35.400]about the interactions between plant shoots and roots
[00:48:38.430]and the soil ecosphere
[00:48:40.050]and silphium integrifolium is one of the focal species
[00:48:42.318]because of the relevance for both restoration
[00:48:45.630]of wild landscapes and the reimagination
[00:48:47.820]of agricultural landscapes.
[00:48:50.010]This institute is led by Dr. Allison Miller
[00:48:52.278]at the Donald Danford Plant Science Center.
[00:48:54.900]And it brings together researchers
[00:48:56.280]across nine partner institutions
[00:48:57.930]and has a lot of training opportunities for students.
[00:49:02.550]So finally, I have to pair the kind of rigorous need
[00:49:05.970]for scientific research that's needed
[00:49:08.236]and our growing cultural imagination of roots.
[00:49:11.820]This is a coloring book page for people of all ages
[00:49:15.210]that was created by Susan Flower,
[00:49:17.282]one of our civic scientists.
[00:49:20.850]So roots are evocative, they evoke human communities,
[00:49:25.230]our origins and genealogies and our family trees,
[00:49:28.800]our tangled interdependence on each other.
[00:49:32.100]They evoke getting to the root of the problem,
[00:49:34.193]kind of analytical approach
[00:49:36.210]that perceives problems spatially in terms of depth.
[00:49:39.990]They evoke putting down roots,
[00:49:42.240]colonizing places by uprooting others
[00:49:45.420]in order to put down one's own roots
[00:49:48.120]and they evoke creatively committing to places,
[00:49:51.600]rooting in by repairing and making anew roots of belonging.
[00:49:56.760]Roots are troublesome, roots can be transformative.
[00:50:02.070]So that's what I've learned so far about the roots
[00:50:04.400]of the plants I live by.
[00:50:06.750]And if you wanna read more kind of about science
[00:50:09.210]and community and story of the Great Plains,
[00:50:11.040]I wanna point you to this recent chapter
[00:50:13.830]that we contributed to a book
[00:50:15.060]called Creating Resilient Landscapes
[00:50:16.860]in an Era of Climate Change
[00:50:18.930]in which we write more about this.
[00:50:21.690]But I don't know what's gonna happen on the Great Plains.
[00:50:26.040]I do know my own willingness to learn
[00:50:30.360]and to try to co-create more just
[00:50:31.827]and enduring food cultures
[00:50:33.360]that can be rooted in this land.
[00:50:36.120]I'm committed to learning how and together
[00:50:39.090]so that we can make it possible for the future to emerge.
[00:50:42.510]And the more just perennial future I can imagine
[00:50:47.130]are the roots that can send shoots
[00:50:49.440]that reemerge above ground in the spring after the fires
[00:50:53.280]and the plants that with our care can nourish us.
[00:50:58.020]So I wanna say thank you for listening to my story so far.
[00:51:01.230]I hope you'll contribute.
[00:51:02.310]I'm gonna be around the next few days,
[00:51:04.140]so please come talk to me, ask questions.
[00:51:06.922]Of course, email me.
[00:51:09.900]I hope that like the person who's my favorite person
[00:51:12.750]in this photo wearing the root down shirt
[00:51:14.640]that while I've been talking
[00:51:16.620]you've been looking in other directions
[00:51:18.450]and thinking about what's below and around us
[00:51:20.670]and been inspired by that.
[00:51:23.760]And I thought we might end today.
[00:51:26.220]We have maybe just a few minutes
[00:51:28.470]or do we need to wrap up, Margaret?
[00:51:31.110]It's about five after.
[00:51:32.430]We probably need to wrap up.
[00:51:35.190]So I will leave you with these questions,
[00:51:37.770]which I hope that you'll have the chance to contemplate
[00:51:39.310]and think about to join me
[00:51:42.120]in considering where the perennials are in your place
[00:51:45.720]and who the perennials are in your community.
[00:51:48.280]Think about the plants that you live by
[00:51:50.250]and how you care for them.
[00:51:51.780]Think about the roots of relationship that can nourish you
[00:51:55.230]and us for the long term.
[00:51:57.510]And to consider how a diversity of stories
[00:52:00.480]and sciences together might build
[00:52:02.340]more just cultures of agriculture,
[00:52:04.830]to think about how we might together
[00:52:06.330]translate knowledge into action.
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