As an arable farmer, the majority of income comes from the likes of Wheat, Barley and OSR crops with a small number of farmers involved with potatoes and root crops. But are there other options out there for arable farmers looking to grow alternative crops in their rotation? The answer is yes!
With these alternative crops, it gives arable farms options within the rotation which will allow them to reduce the risk by increasing the variety of crops farmed. Risk is reduced simply because if for example there is a disease or pest outbreak it will affect a lower percentage of the farm’s output. But that isn’t it! Some of these crops will have high returns from the run of the mill crops, you just need to find the right ones that will work for you in your location
So, is what you have been waiting for 5 alternatives to conventional arable crops that may be worth reading more into
Miscanthus is also known as ‘Elephant Grass’ is a perennial crop that can grow to heights of 3m and originate from Asia. It is also a low input crop which will help to improve soil health. But it’s main use is as a biofuel to produce energy. It is similar to grass in a way that you are able to plant it and then harvest it for several years following.
Grows well in flooded fields – Miscanthus has been shown to grow well in waterlogged and flood-prone land. The crop quality is not compromised by flooding and offers much-needed soil stability.
a profit margin of £750-£1,250/ha once the first cut is taken (The first cut is usually low yielding)
If you didn’t know already It is legal to cultivate hemp in the UK, subject to certain conditions and fees pretty obviously. As a quick-growing plant, hemp can rapidly accumulate biomass and remove carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Once grown, hemp fibres can be used to create products ranging from paper and building materials to bioplastics and livestock bedding. If the plant is allowed to mature and produce seeds, additional products can be manufactured, including hemp oil for cooking and seed cake for animal feed. A good option as an alternative crop if you can find the market for it.
Lupins offer the farmer a pulse crop with significantly higher protein content than peas or beans but certain varieties can be later maturing, or sensitive to alkaline soils. Lupins are also a legume like peas and beans, therefore, are nitrogen-fixing (put nitrogen back into the soil). The aim of lupins is to produce a high protein crop that is able to be used as livestock feed. It also offers many options as it is to be harvested dry (Combined) or whole cropped, giving the option to sell or to use for your own livestock dependant on your situation. A great alternative in the rotation to other legumes.
So, we have all heard of Soya but did you know it can be grown in the UK as an alternative crop? It has been grown by the like of Soya UK since 1998 with success. Soya can be used in a rotation as a break crop like the likes of OSR with the ability for it to be harvested in April with early maturing varieties. An excellent, low input break crop with minimal pest & disease problems with the huge plus that it is nitrogen fixing
An extra little fact is that as a crop Soya works astonishingly well against black grass and for those eastern county farms struggling to eradicate it. It could be a great option.
With very few growers in the UK currently, there is a huge market for UK grown soya and it is not a picky market, with the quality criteria being easily achieved by most growers). Overall a great option which is in high demand around the world.
Yielding 10-15 tonnes an acre of high-quality forage crop lucerne may be a great option as a break crop in the location to produce premium quality feed. Lucerne is usually grown for silage as a pure stand or mixed with grass but can also be grazed or undersown to spring cereals. Lucerne is known for having extremely high levels of protein, Higher than red clover, but is more easily used by the animal making it a far more efficient crop. If you are a mixed farm looking for an alternative to grass or maize in the rotation Lucerne could be a great option.
After a brief look at some alternative crops on arable farms, it shows that there are so many options for farmers to move away from the run-of-the-mill crops and find other alternatives to add into rotations. Obviously, not all crops will suit all farms as they rely highly on soil types and soil pH but these 5 crops can start the ideas to flow when looking for alternative options on an arable farm.
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