By Davidson Gordon
Farmers are encouraged to consider growing novel substitute crops such as mushrooms, cut flowers and medicinal cannabis in southern Scotland.
A new study published by Scotland’s Rural College suggests farmers diversifying away from conventional land uses could also step into the cultivation of bark for tanning, sugar beets or ancient grains that are higher in protein and fiber and lower in gluten.
The research, authored by Anna Sellars, a rural business consultant, and Dave Roberts, a professor, examined the availability and suitability of land in the Scottish Borders and Dumfries and Galloway, as well as the processing facilities and market conditions necessary to support such production.
It also highlights that the’ status quo’ of existing food supply chains is likely to be threatened by post-Brexit trade arrangements. Instead, mushrooms – the majority of which have been produced in Europe in recent years – may be grown in Scotland, which has a growing climate close to that of Ireland. Medicinal cannabis, which is now prescribed by the NHS for various disorders such as epilepsy and multiple sclerosis, and opium poppies containing, among others, codeine and morphine in their seed pods, both provide opportunities to increase the development of medicinal plants in the UK.
While in the UK it is possible to grow flowers such as roses, lilies, tulips, daffodils, and sunflowers, 86 percent of cut flowers are currently imported. These have recently experienced a revival in popularity along with freesias, irises, delphiniums, carnations, chrysanthemums and peonies, and offer another chance for growers.
See Friday’s edition of The Scottish Farmer for comprehensive news and views on Scottish agriculture, or visit www.thescottishfarmer.co.uk.