The Rise of Alternative Crops

January 22, 2012

What constitutes as an alternative crop may vary from region to region, one thing that stays the same however is the advantages it provides to the environment and that it is definitely on the rise. crop

For example, as explained in “Organic Risk Management” by Kristine Moncada, Craig Sheaffer and Jim Stordahl, for a region such as the midwest any crop besides corn, soybeans, small grains or alfalfa can be considered “alternative crops.” 

The use of diverse crops allows for rotations that benefit plant growth and also “reduces pesticide use, enhances soil and water quality, promotes wildlife diversity, and allows for producers to take advantage of new markets at premium prices.”

One of the main reasons alternative crops are on the rise is because of the economic advantages they carry. More and more farmers are starting to realize that they can produce goods that are in great demand and short supply in their own soil, thus creating their own niche in the market place.

Another important thing about alternative crops is that as explained by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) is that the term has come to imply the use of environmentally-friendly farming practices, diversification itself being a great benefit.

Before deciding to produce alternative crops farmers must take into account several factors. The new crops must fit the climate, geography and the agricultural techniques being employed.

Statistically, most of the United States’ crops are soybeans, corn, and wheat. This has proved to not only be negative for the environment, causing soil erosion; but also detrimental to the small farm’s economical gain.

Thus, many farmers have turned to alternative methods of farming and different crops with great results. Some of the new crops include pearl millet, buckwheat, canola, sunflowers, flax, and sesame.

From the looks of it this trend is definitely increasing in popularity and we should expect to see many new goods sprouting from American croplands in the coming years.

– Ivanha Paz

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

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