Multifunctional Perennial Cropping Systems (MPCs)

For Introducing local food and biomass production for small farmers in the

Upper Sangamon River Watershed

Our goal is to develop the information and tools to facilitate the transition to MPCs on “opportunity lands” of farms (lands marginal for conventional crops). This will be specifically focused on small farmers who lack tools to design, plan, and implement these systems to optimize the benefits of these systems.


What are MPCs?

Multifunctional Perennial Cropping Systems (MPCs) are a type of agriculture system that attempts to bridge the gap between conservation and productivity by using perennial fruit, nut, timber, and bionenergy crops on "opportunity lands". Opportunity land is land considered marginal for conventional annual row crop production but suitable for agroforestry systems These type of innovative practices offer farmers and land owners an opportunity to integrate multiple ecosystem services into the landscape.


How will they be designed?

These systems will be designed to provide alternative food and biomass products that would improve prosperity for small and medium sized farms, while also providing ecosystem services such as wildlife habitat, biodiversity, and water quality. These systems will initially be focused on lands that currently are not productive or difficult to cultivate with traditional crops. In this way, MPCs offer a new alternative system to improve soil and water quality while remaining economically viable.


Where will this take place?

This project will focus on farmers in Upper Sangamon River Watershed (USRW) of Central Illinois.


Project Summary

This study will utilize a variety of qualitative and quantitative study research methods to better understand the perceptions, feelings, knowledge preferences, and viability of MPCs moving forward.  Surveys, interviews, and field data of land owners will provide information which will inform and guide the improved design of these systems. By understanding who is/will be adopting these systems, what they want, and how research and outreach can help, we can facilitate the adoption of MPCs for farmers and land owners.


Research Objectives

1. Identifying farmer/landowner preferences and behaviors related to MPCs

2. Mapping opportunity lands and market networks in the USRW.

3. Developing and evaluating design alternatives for 15 participating farms

4. Educating stakeholders about the benefits of MPCs.


Students studying black currant farm fields

Each of the labeled systems can be planted with harvestable trees and shrubs, adding a yield element to their already valuable conservation benefits.

Example of a riparian buffer system where harvestable foods and timber can be incorporated to form a  MPCs.

Map of the Upper Sangamon River Watershed and its counties

UIUC Professors

Sarah Taylor Lovell, [Lead PI] Associate Professor of Crop Sciences.

Gregory McIssac, [Co-PI] Associate Professor Emeritus of NRES.



Steve John, Agricultural Watershed Institute

Bruce Branham, Allerton Park in Monticello, IL

Doug Goucker, [Co-PI] Extension Educator, UI Extension

Darlene Knipe, [Co-PI] Marketing and Business Development Specialist



Chloe Mattia, Masters student in Crop Sciences

Erik Stanek, Masters student in Crop Sciences

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