Innovative crops on Limburg soil

Item date:

17 May 2021

Category of item:

Nieuws

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Many farmers will not immediately get excited about experimenting with a new crop. It takes time to discover how to achieve an optimal yield and a market may not be found overnight. Nevertheless, various entrepreneurs in the Limburg agrifood sector are daring to do so because they want to be prepared for a warmer and drier climate, because they want to do business in a more sustainable way or because they see opportunities for an attractive earnings model. We list a number of pioneers.

Research and Practice

The search for new crops is not only a matter for the farmer. From the government, research and experiments are stimulated, from a sustainability perspective, but also for a strong position of the Dutch farmer. Wageningen University & Research (WUR) works within the research institute Plant Research on product and crop innovations by working with farmers in the search for new crops and cultivations. In recent years, for example, they have looked at the potential of soy, quinoa, tagetes and hemp.

Plants 4 Plants

Within Limburg, crop innovation is driven by Plants 4 Plants. In this project the LLTB works together with various local parties to find new crops in which sustainability and the use of the entire plant are central. The aim of the project is to achieve a positive balance or earning model for the grower through a combination of sustainable application of specific crop components. This could include the cultivation of protein crops for high-grade animal feed, whereby residual flows from the crop can be used as a source of fibre for the sustainable furniture industry, for example.

big nettle, silver grass and field bean. A demonstration field of the crops is located at Brightlands Campus Greenport Venlo.

Spelt and tritordeum

Some innovative crops are actually very old crops. This applies, for example, to spelt, an ancient grain that was cultivated thousands of years ago in Egypt. Spelt became a hype in the Netherlands because of the Kollenberger spelt growers, five farmers from southern Limburg. Meanwhile, the men also grow tritordeum, a Mediterranean grain that withstands hot, dry summers well and is praised for its sustainability and health value. The growers as well as the miller and bakers involved are paid for their work on the basis of fair pricing, i.e. a fair remuneration, without the product becoming too expensive for the consumer.

Sweet potato

The choice of exotic fruits and vegetables in the supermarket has exploded in recent years. Because the demand for these products is increasing and the transport kilometers are a big burden on the environment, some farmers are looking at possibilities for local cultivation. Franc Goertz of Goertz asparagus discovered that the changing climate offers opportunities for growing sweet potato on Limburg soil. In a collaboration with fruit and vegetable importer Nature's Pride, his sweet potatoes are now sold exclusively at supermarket chain Plus.

Papaya

Another exotic species that has reached Limburg is the papaya. In four hectares of greenhouses in Wellerslooi this tropical fruit grows on thousands of trees. This cultivation is the result of a study by the Business Unit Horticulture and Flower Bulbs of Wageningen University & Research. They looked into which tropical fruits would be promising to grow in the greenhouses of Dutch greenhouse horticulture entrepreneurs. Of the studied avocado, papaya and mango, the papaya came out best. Four growers of the Venlo growers association Sunfresh were involved in the study and decided to take the step to grow their own fruit.

Mushrooms

Mushroom grower Oakfield from Stramproy also looked beyond the borders for new opportunities, and decided to start growing fourteen special mushrooms. This step was largely due to the ever-increasing demand for mushrooms throughout Europe, as a result of current food trends such as less sugar, salt, meat and more healthy food. Mushrooms are also often used as a flavorful meat substitute with texture. At Oakfields, for example, they grow namekos, eryngii and maitakes and sustainability is highly regarded.

Purple asparagus

Asparagus grower Teboza in Helden is harvesting purple asparagus from Limburg soil for the first time this year. This is not entirely new, as purple asparagus was previously grown in Teboza's Spanish fields. Now they also grow on two hectares in the Netherlands, just like the green variant above ground. The purple asparagus is not very well known yet, but it is expected to increase in popularity. For example, it is more suitable for eating raw than the white and green varieties. Teboza hopes to expand sales of this asparagus in both the hospitality and retail sectors.

Truffle

In November, oak, hazel, and beech trees treated with truffle fungus went into the ground in a former fruit orchard in Eys, along with 100 tons of lime from the Kunrader stone quarry. This makes the first commercial Dutch truffle farm a fact. The truffle farm is an initiative of André Leclercq, owner of delicatessen store Eyserhalte. For the time being the first truffles are still waiting; in the most favorable case they can be harvested after 5 to 6 years.

Do you know of an innovative crop grown in Limburg that is missing from this list? Please let us know!