Opportunities and challenges of alternative specialty crops

Modern intensive agriculture has led to biodiversity loss by restricting the number of crops, resulting in a limited range of nutrients available to the community. Alternative specialty crops can contribute to crop diversification in agricultural production systems and enhance human health and well-being by providing a diverse array of food crops.

Rapid demographic changes in the U.S. population has created higher demands for and sales potential of fruits and vegetables, and has brought new market opportunities for farmers in the United States to grow alternative specialty crops.

The introduction of alternative specialty crops has many inherited advantages including economic benefits to farmers through multiple facets: diversifying crop with value-added crops, improving resilience to climate variability, maintaining yields with less resources, and boosting crop resistance to pests and diseases.

However, there are challenges associated with the introduction and establishment of new crops, which include lack of information on candidates, cultural practices, and marketing as well as policy and institutional barriers. Farmers may face risk from poor economic returns and their businesses are likely to fail if proper management and marketing information are not available.

This paper explores the opportunities and challenges associated with introduction of alternative specialty crops, and discuss how to mitigate potential problems associated with the introduction and establishment of alternative specialty crops.

Access the full study at HortScience.

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