July 25, 2006
Organic Sunflowers, Flax & Beans: New Crops for NNY?
Fifteen to 20 percent increases in the organic food market coupled with premium prices for certified organic grains have prompted growing interest by Northern New York farmers in organic grain production. Responding to that interest, the farmer-driven Northern New York Agricultural Development Program (NNYADP) is funding the evaluation of sunflowers, flax, and dry beans as new crops for farmers in Clinton, Essex, Franklin, Jefferson, Lewis and St. Lawrence counties.
Cornell University E.V. Baker Agricultural Research Farm (Willsboro, NY ) Manager Michael Davis says the project is evaluating ways to insert new options into organic crop rotations. The 2006 trials at the farm are testing four sunflower varieties, five flax varieties (including Omega, a gold colored flax), and four dry bean varieties. Crop sequencing, planting density, fertilizer requirements, weed and pest control strategies, harvest timing and yield are some of the production factors under evaluation.
An analysis of production costs and returns for each of the crops under scrutiny will help farmers assess the profit potential for their farm business.
Cornell Cooperative Extension of Essex County Executive Director Anita Deming says, “Farmers are looking for new products to diversify their plantings. This can help with rotations, reducing pest populations and marketing, however, first the farmers want to know if they can make money growing a new crop and how much labor is involved. Knowing the variable costs of production and selling prices is crucial for a farmer deciding to make a change. The information from this project can help farmers decide which crops are best for their situation.”
Previous NNYADP small grants projects have focused on the production of spring and winter wheat, soybeans, and alfalfa/grass hay.
Regional buyers, such as Champlain Valley Milling, have helped build farmer interest in the organic production of grains for processing into flours and cake mixes. Processors have purchased organically-grown soybeans for both human and animal consumption. Grass-fed beef production has also been the focus of an NNYADP project.
For More Information:
Michael Davis, Cornell University E.V. Baker Research Farm Manager, 518-963-7492. firstname.lastname@example.org