Researchers at the University of Wisconsin, Madison have set a goal to plant 10 crops on 20,000 acres by 2030. These ten crops are top candidates for farmers looking to diversify.
Nut production is a major sector in the global agricultural economy, but Wisconsin’s participation is as of yet, extremely limited. The University of Wisconsin-Madison and the Savannah Institute are working to change that.
Wisconsin legalized hemp production in 2017 and in the past few years there has been a six-fold increase in registered growers in Wisconsin. Hemp seed is rich in magnesium, omega 3 fatty acids, and dietary fiber.
Interest in ‘superfood’ fiber-rich berry crops is increasing. Wisconsin’s aronia and elderberry are used in juices and other value-added products. Other fruits like haskaps and currants can be eaten fresh or processed.
High-value horticulture crops like grapes are an important part of Wisconsin’s agricultural economy and grapes represent a sector with significant growth potential.
Food Grade Grains
Crop rotations with cereals can build organic soil matter, reduce erosion by providing winter cover, break disease cycles, control weeds, and increase landscape diversity. Organic production can further increase these environmental benefits.
Bambara Groundnut – a drought tolerant legume
Bambara groundnut is native to Africa where it’s the third most consumed legume in semi-arid production areas. It’s drought-tolerant and has been successfully grown without irrigation for centuries in Africa on low water-holding soils, such as in the WI Central Sands.
Perennial species have extensive root systems and provide continuous soil cover, which could eliminate environmental problems like soil erosion and water pollution and radically transform the relationship between food and the environment. Kernza grain is used for beer, pasta, and baked goods, and has a high protein (but low gluten) content.
Beer contains dietary fiber?
Yep. While no one should be seeking nutrients from alcoholic beverages, beer1 does deliver a gram or two of dietary fiber.
Once widely grown in Wisconsin, hops production moved west to dryer climates with less disease issues. It is making a resurgence in many parts of the United States including Wisconsin because brewers are looking for local high-quality ingredients.
Interest in local ingredients and local ingredient flavor (terroir) from breweries is generating new interest in malting barley crops. Producing more of this crop would be getting back to Wisconsin’s roots, as the state was once a leader in malting barley.