Submitted to: HortScience
Publication Type: Peer reviewed journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 4/15/2006
Publication Date: N/A
Citation: Interpretive Summary: There are opportunities for U.S. agriculture to add new alternative crops to those we already produce to lessen our dependence on petroleum. These crops have the potential to be grown on over a half million hectares at a value of over $500 million U.S. and have opportunities in biofuel markets. There are many of these crops at various stages of domestication. The availability of seed and the current status of these crops are discussed herein. This should benefit industrial companies interested in developing new biobased products as well as growers looking for opportunities to diversify their current crop rotations.
Technical Abstract: There are new markets for many new plant species in the areas of bioproducts, biofuels, and bioenergy. The species that are suitable for these markets all have unique properties in their seed oil or other plant part, making them environmentally friendly as replacements for petroleum products, and many of these species have the potential to quickly become important crops in American agriculture. Several examples, which are at various stages in the domestication process, of new industrial crops are lesquerella, cuphea, camelina, vernonia, meadowfoam, pennycrest, and guayule. These crops have the immediate potential to be grown on over a half million hectares at a value of over $500 million U.S., and many have additional opportunities in the biofuel markets. Only a modest market penetration has been realized in the U.S.; however, public support and private preference are beginning to change this. A number of challenges face new crop developers in the transition from a wild plant species to a research crop, and to a commercially viable crop which requires unique adaptations from traditional crop development. New crops have some commonalities in commercialization constraints, as well as their own unique problems. Availability of research dollars and germplasm, continuity of research and industry interest, organization of consortia to transition a wild crop to a market product, information distribution or sharing among consortia, and identity preservation of products are some of the key issues new crops face. There are a number of biological issues that are common to new plant species such as seed shattering, pollen incompatibility, seed coat chemicals affecting germination, and indeterminate flowering. Some of these barriers require a significant effort to overcome for efficient farm-scale production. Some markets will permit high production costs because the high value of the product. Other crops will not be successful until they are able to be produced at low costs. These crops need to be able to compete on a price and functionality basis, and bring a continuous and affordable supply of a product to market. There are opportunities for U.S. agriculture in the transition from a petroleum based to a biobased economy by adding new these plant species to those we already produce. It is necessary for agriculture to keep pace with the global population growth. A greater diversity in our current agriculture production is needed since we are dominated by four crops. More crops would add to productivity by providing options for crop rotations.