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Rediscovering Knowledge of Productive Lost Crops

Researchers from Washington University in St. Louis are exploring the yield potential of “lost crops,” productive plants that were grown in North America for thousands of years before being abandoned. Historical evidence shows that people purposefully tended crops of goosefoot, erect knotweed, maygrass, little barley, and sumpweed. Natalie Mueller leads research that is trying to rediscover how these crops were grown and how well they produced. In the Journal of Ethnobiology Mueller reported research results showing that growing goosefoot and erect knotweed together is more productive than growing either one alone. In fact, when grown together, the two plants have higher yields than global averages for closely related domesticated crops such as quinoa and buckwheat, leading researchers to conclude that crops of these plants could historically have fed thousands of people.