ALTERNATIVE CROPS

BorageThere are a number of different crops that should be considered as alternatives to the more traditional crops. The restructuring of the CAP  has led to the lowering of support and a change in emphasis to some enterprises. Landowning Initiatives are able to provide advice on the suitability of a number of crops and can provide information on potential markets and support for grants.

Asparagus

Asparagus has not yet become a common vegetable in the diet in the majority of the British population but it has become increasingly available to the UK consumers. Production over here has declined although it is felt that with a suitable marketing strategy and locating of appropriate markets then there is potential for Asparagus production. Growers in this country may experience lower yields but it is felt that the distinctive flavour of the plants produced could be a valuable selling point. This is an excellent product to consider exporting.

Daffodils

Flowers such as daffodils have markets on the continent but increasingly in the USA for bulbs. Daffodils are relatively easy to fit into an existing crop rotation and can complement many farming systems and in some instances the use of some machinery may be replicated. As a perishable product it is ideal if the bulbs can be grown in areas near local markets or near reasonable transport routes. This is a very good product to market on a worldwide basis.

Dried Grass & Lucerne

British products are usually sold as pellets or milled; these products are mainly aimed at the animal feed market, especially equine. There may also be more scope for marketing grass seed that is suitable for golf courses, verges, parks and gardens, most of these are presently imported.

Flax

Flax as an annual crop, has been grown in Europe since Roman times. Specialised flax machinery for pulling, deseeding and bailing the crop is required, contributing to a high processing cost. A decorticator has been developed speeding up processing and reducing costs. The resulting fibre, although of a lower value than the old system, has numerous uses. There is a growing demand for natural fibres for clothing, matting and motorway embankments which are biodegradable - as opposed to synthetics which are causing environmental concerns.

Horticulture

Horticulture is the growing of flowers, shrubs, fruit and vegetables. It ranges from field scale production of vegetables such as cabbage, cauliflower, calabrese, carrots and parsnips to the orchard growing of apples, pears, plums and cherries. It also applies to the growing of seedlings. In glasshouses or polytunnels are grown tomatoes, cucumbers, bedding plants and specialised plants. Lettuces are grown in both heated houses in winter and on a field scale in summer. There is also the specialist production of material for other growers including spawn, or maidens, bulbs, potted cuttings for growing on etc. to supply to the trade.

Industrial Crops & Essential Oils

Interest in Industrial Crops has been growing steadily due to the decrease in prices for many of the more traditional crops. Farmers may be able to consider growing slightly more obscure crops in suitable areas as a supplement to payments. There may be opportunities for a formidable amount of growth in this area. The key to the success of any such enterprise will be the availability of a market for any new products grown. Landowning Initiatives will be pleased to help in the locating of markets and suggesting suitable crops.

Essential Oils have attracted a steady increase in World trade since 1984. In recent years, there has been a marked increase in the popularity of natural fragrance and flavouring compounds together with natural herbal remedies. Aromatic plants and their essential oils are a source of natural medicines or plant protection chemicals; they contain secondary metabolic products, which have a biological activity such as antibacterial, antifungal or antioxidant. There is a need to discuss these products on a worldwide basis and to look for markets through technology and other methods.

Lupins

Some people may have been put off Lupins by the bad harvest in the mid 1980's, but with the introduction of strains of the plant which is more suitable to growth in this country it is envisaged that the popularity of Lupins will improve. These plants have low inputs and require minimal management so it is felt that they will complement existing farming rotations and may even help improve the ground for following crops.

Mushrooms

The production of mushrooms has become quite a successful cottage industry with the growers being able to produce high yields and good quality mushrooms. Market availability and access is very important due to the perishable nature of the product. This crop may be good in areas where there is a ready supply of labour and suitable sources of compost. It may be a good add-on to equine or other animal enterprises, where a cheap supply of manure is available.

Organic Farming

There is an increasing demand for food products that are derived from organic sources; the public have become more concerned about how their food is produced. Organic farming is concerned with the management of resources such as the land and the use of animal and plant waste and by products to allow sustainable production from organic systems. Landowning Initiatives recognise there are large markets for organic systems in relation to Export these obviously can be discussed in more detail. Government grants are sometimes available and Landowning Initiatives Ltd will notify applicants on request.

Potatoes

When looking for an alternative crop, potatoes may be a viable alternative. Potatoes have a number of uses and to this end there are a wide range of varieties available to the grower. There may be a good opportunity to exploit niche markets and develop new products. This may suit family farms in areas where there is an availability of people to work on the lifting and grading and possibly on the selling of the potatoes. Adding value on the farm by processing ones own potatoes and neighbouring farmers as well can increase the value of the crop.

Sunflowers

The seed from sunflowers has been growing in popularity with the demand for vegetable oil growing. Sunflowers can be compared well with oilseed rape in terms of input and equipment requirement. There is potential for a number of markets in the UK for sunflowers and products derived from them. Due to the increasing amount of sunflowers being grown the number and quality of seed varieties is improving. Growers do need to ensure a marketing outlet in advance.

Turf

Turf may be a useful alternative to grass. There are a number of markets available for turf that is produced and more may become apparent as production develops. Turf can be fitted into existing agricultural systems relatively well and depending upon the methods employed may provide a good source of income for the farmer with minimal input. There are a number of different varieties of turf and there may be restrictions on the lifting of the turf. Landowning Initiatives will be able to help provide information on all aspects of turf production.