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Research Magazine > ARCHIVE > Summer 01 > Article

Emerging Crops Get a Boost
by Dan Rahn

A new agricultural initiative places more emphasis on coordination of research efforts from crop development to processing to marketing.

Potential crops like pearl millet are often involved in UGA research projects. But a new initiative promises to give them a leg up by placing more emphasis and coordination on the research.

“In some cases, minor crops can have a potentially large impact on the state’s agriculture,” said Randy Hudson, the first coordinator of the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences Emerging Crop and Technologies Initiative.

Oilseed and biomass initiatives are examples of areas in which the new program can have a major impact on Georgia agriculture, he said. The effort goes beyond finding new crops. It also helps put together the processing and marketing needed to make them commercially viable.

Jerry Cherry, CAES associate dean for research, said another such area is in feed grains for Georgia’s poultry and livestock.

While the term “emerging crops” tends to evoke thoughts of new plants, Cherry said, “don’t think that precludes animal projects.” For instance, red deer may have potential in Georgia as a livestock “crop.”

With the help of state funding, the new initiative will improve UGA’s chances of discovering crops the state doesn’t grow now, said Bill Lambert, former CAES associate dean for extension.

New markets pop up as people from other parts of the world come to Georgia. “But the biggest opportunity,” Lambert said, “is adding more value to things we already grow here.”

Lambert said Georgia farmers will never get away from growing traditional commodities. “But if you look at the farmers who are doing well, many have found success with niche crops,” he said. “The secret is to find more niche markets.”

Only time will tell how important the new initiative will be to the state’s agriculture and overall economy.

“When you work with new technologies and crops, you can’t predict their success,” said CAES Dean and Director Gale Buchanan. “That’s the nature of research. But we can develop means to enhance their ability to be successful. This is not a panacea, but it’s certainly one of the ways we can help agriculture continue to be profitable.”


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