August 23, 2000 | By: Laura Skillman

Kentucky's farmers know how to grow corn, soybeans, and wheat and researchers are looking at what opportunities may be within these grains for new crops that would boost farm income.

The research is part of the New Crop Opportunities Center at the University of Kentucky College of Agriculture. Part of the research is on new horticultural venues such as blackberries, specialty peppers and greenhouse plants. Another part focuses on agronomy and the College of Agriculture is focusing efforts there on new grain crop potentials.

Farmers across the state are suffering from loss of tobacco quotas and looking for new means of adding to their farm income. Grain farmers are also struggling with several years of low prices.

The number of specialty grains, especially in soybeans, is growing substantially. This research will give farmers a better idea of what may fit their operations and what ones offer actual opportunities.

The project will look at what additional management is needed with these grains, what the added risks are and what the management costs will be. Additional profit potential will also be considered as will any lower yield potentials.

Specialty grains often offer farmers higher prices than the traditional grains. For example, soft white winter wheat which is preferred for its milling qualities, can be sold at premium prices above soft red winter wheat traditionally grown by Kentucky farmers.

There are nine grain crop projects under way at the Lexington campus, the University of Kentucky Research and Education Center in Princeton and on farms around the state.

The projects look at wheat, corn and soybeans and what additional opportunities may be available within these grain crops. The prime focus within these three grains today are high oil corn, tofu soybeans and soft white winter wheat.

It makes sense to look within these crops for more opportunities than to look for new crops unfamiliar to farmers in Kentucky, says the project's coordinator.

"Farmers already have expertise in these crops," said Larry Grabau, UK agronomist and project coordinator.

Producers would be able to easily pick up the limited number of new adaptions required to make the specialty grain crops work for them, he said.

UK Extension Agricultural Engineer Sam McNeill at UK's Research and Education Center in Princeton is studying post handling needs for all three grain crops.

The new crop opportunities project for both horticultural and agronomic crops is being funded through a $556,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.


Larry Grabau, (859) 257-3203