Novel crops is the term used to describe a range of unusual crops that can be grown in the UK for specialist end markets; from fibre production to use in the pharmaceutical industry. Though they currently only take up a small proportion of the arable land in cultivation, the area of land dedicated to such crops is increasing and although they can be more demanding on management, if done right, the gross margins can be much higher than other crop options.
Gross margins will inevitably depend on the end price for the crop, which can be unstable, however gross margins for the crops detailed here range from around £100/ha to over £600/ha.
Some also act as useful break crops and have the advantage of supplying different markets to the more traditional commodity crops. In 2006 over 50,000 hectares of novel crops were grown in the UK.
Information on the growing of these crops is not widely available and often the suppliers of the contracts are the only real source. For this reason Yara has put together this information for some of the more common novel crops that are being grown, or have the potential to be grown in the UK.
These crops are grown for their oil, for which the uses can vary widely. Some have health benefits and are used as dietary supplements in food products, while others can be used in the pharmaceutical and plastics industries.
Coriander (Coriandrum Sativum)
Echium (Echium Vulgare)
Crambe (Crambe Abysinnica)
Linseed (Linaceae Usitatissimum)
Gold of Pleasure (Camelina Sativa)
Pot Marigold (Calendula Officinalis)
Meadowfoam (Limnanthes Alba)
Safflower (Carthamus Tinctorus)
These are the more fibrous crops, which can be used for a wide range of products including car parts and textiles. They have the advantage over other textiles of being biodegradable.
Flax (Linum Usitatissimum)
Nettle (Urtica Dioica)
Hemp (Cannabis Sativa)
These crops grow rapidly, producing large amounts of biomass, which can be burnt in place of fossil fuels to generate heat and/or power in power stations.
Willow (Salix Spp)
Miscanthus (Miscanthus Giganteus)
‘Other’ crops is a very general term to group the rest of the crops, from protein crops for livestock feeds to alternative sugar crops and pharmaceutical crops.