Crops in Alabama
| Kiwifruit have the highest
vitamin C content of any fruit and are an excellent source
of magnesium, potassium, and vitamin E.
We all know that eating plenty
of fruits and vegetables can help reduce the risk of developing
heart disease, certain cancers, and other chronic diseases.
fruit and vegetable growers are contributing to a supply of fresh,
delicious, and interesting produce for consumers. And they are
getting help from Alabama Agricultural Experiment Station (AAES)
scientists at Auburn University and Alabama A&M University.
scientists are studying several fruit and vegetable crops to determine
their viability as specialty crops for Alabama. Specialty crops
are high-value crops that can be grown on limited acreage and
still be profitable. Satsumas, kiwifruit, and shiitake mushrooms
are among those grown in Alabama now. In addition, Asian pears,
jujube, and pawpaws show strong potential in AAES research.
oranges—small, sweet, and nearly seedless fruits—were
introduced to the state in 1878 and for several decades were a
thriving industry. But they lost favor with farmers when several
large freezes before World War II destroyed crops and all but
eliminated plantings. Today, AAES researchers are studying how
to make Satsuma plants hardier in freezing temperatures and to
reestablish their production in South Alabama.
recently took a giant step toward getting Satsumas in the marketplace
when they received a grant to purchase equipment needed to wash,
wax, and sort Satsumas for marketing and selling. Chain stores
require fruits to be graded and sorted at exact sizes.
|AAES researchers are studying how to
make Satsuma trees hardier in freezing temperatures and to
reestablish their production in South Alabama. Marketing is
a top priority for the Alabama Satsuma market.
Producers and researchers agree
that marketing is a top priority for the Alabama Satsuma market.
In a recent survey of consumers in nine cities, including sites
in Alabama and Georgia, agricultural economists from Auburn asked
grocery store shoppers about their preferences regarding Satsumas.
Results from these surveys will let producers know, among other
things, when to harvest their fruit and send it to market.
addition to further research on marketing Satsumas,” said
Bob Ebel, associate professor of horticulture at Auburn University
who coordinates Auburn’s satsuma program, “our plans
include evaluating the health benefits of Satsumas and other Alabama-grown
fruit and designing a grower cooperative.”
is another specialty crop with market potential. Kiwifruit, which
are native to China, are subtropical plants, which means they
don’t tolerate extreme cold. But since 1985, the sweet-tart
fruit has been grown successfully at the Chilton Research and
Extension Center in Clanton, Alabama.
the small kiwifruit is a powerhouse, labeled by some these days
as a “nutraceutical,” or a food packed with health
benefits. Research indicates kiwifruit are the most nutrient-dense
of all fruits. They have the highest vitamin C content of any
fruit and are an excellent source of magnesium, potassium, and
on the productivity of the kiwifruit crop at the Chilton Research
and Extension Center, scientists estimate commercial growers in
that area of the state could realize impressive yields as high
as four to five tons per acre. They are convinced that in central
and south-central Alabama, kiwifruit could be a profitable specialty
there may be local and regional markets for many of the specialty
crops grown in Alabama, there is a unique market for skiitake
mushrooms: colonies in outer space.
scientists at Alabama A&M University are examining the feasibility
of growing exotic mushrooms in space. The project, funded by NASA,
aims at developing a self-sustaining environment for future space
colonies and is being conducted in cooperation with Purdue University
and Howard University.
scientists are studying the ability of fungi to degrade crop waste
that is inedible by humans, producing shiitake, oyster, and other
exotic mushrooms in the process. Some of the plant waste would
be ground up and fed to tilapia fish. Waste from the fish would
be used to fertilize crops. In this closed-loop system, the wastes
of one system are taken in, used, and processed by another system.
A&M was selected for the study because of its strong food
science and agricultural research program, which has focused on
production of shiitake mushrooms since the 1980s. Shiitake mushrooms
are an excellent source of protein, vitamin D, B vitamins, and
minerals. The market potential for shiitakes is great because
of their unusually high nutritional value and because they can
be cultivated in both large and small operations.
pears, jujube (pronounced JOO-joo-bee), and pawpaws are other
fruit crops that have potential for Alabama growers, and research
is underway to solve several production problems.
Asian pears are prolific producers that are being studied by AAES
researchers at Alabama A&M University and Auburn University.
They are susceptible to the bacterial disease fireblight and tend
to bloom early, an affliction which also affects peach crops.
describes the blackened, burned appearance of damaged flowers,
twigs, and foliage,” said Caula Beyl, professor of horticulture
at Alabama A&M University who has been working with Asian
pears since the early 1990s. Beyl is seeking cultivars of Asian
pear that are less affected by both fireblight and early bloom.
are in high demand in local markets by Asian consumers, but most
of the best cultivars are difficult to propagate. To induce roots
to grow on jujube, AAES researchers at A&M University are
using “hairy root” bacterium (Agrobacterium rhizogenes),
which stimulates root growth.
are another fruit with potential for Alabama growers, but pawpaws
are even more difficult to root than jujube, and researchers are
working to solve that problem. Pawpaws also have a short shelf
life, but can be processed into desserts, marinades, and salad
| Canola is known by most
consumers in its “value-added” state as canola
“Many of these specialty
or exotic crops, particularly jujube and pawpaws, are on the emerging
side of the market,” said Beyl. “The problem is the
availability of better cultivars and the high cost of materials.
Another problem with pawpaws is that growers can expect high tree
losses the first year. Growers must be patient because it takes
five to six years before the trees start bearing.”
crop with great potential for Alabama producers is canola. Canola
is a leafy green vegetable much like collards, but most consumers
know canola in its “value-added” state, as canola
oil. Potentially, it is a good winter cash crop or an alternative
crop to wheat. The only problem is that there are no mills in
or near Alabama to process canola seed into oil.
a lot of pressure to convince oil milling businesses to locate
a mill in the Southeast region,” said Udai Bishnoi, professor
of agronomy at Alabama A&M University who works with canola
and other field crops.
is a very good crop to grow in Alabama,” continued Bishnoi.
“It grows under the same conditions as winter wheat, and
works well in rotation with summer crops, and can produce more
income per acre than wheat.”
crops grown in Alabama are not limited to fruits and vegetables;
AAES scientists are working in the area of specialty meat production
|Shifting tastes and new culinary practices
may increase demand for beef that is forage-fed rather than
Forage-fed beef is well established
in Alabama, but there may be a new market for the product in restaurants
in Atlanta and Chicago. The beef is in demand for use in churrasco
(pronounced shoo-HAS-ko), a culinary practice in which large pieces
of meat are hung over open-flame pits and slowly roasted. Churrasco
has been a culinary tradition for more than three centuries in
southern Brazil, where cattle feed in open pastures.
most beef cattle produced in the Southeast are raised initially
on forages and readied for the market on grain diets in feedlots
usually located out of state. Increasing and fluctuating grain
prices, environmental concerns associated with feedlots, and consumer
demands for lower-fat beef have generated interest in using forages
as finishing diets for beef cattle. Along with scientists at Louisiana
State University, Mississippi State University, and the University
of Kentucky, AU researchers are studying the feasibility of producing
forage-fed beef for the market.
which is widely planted as a winter annual in Alabama, provides
excellent forage for finishing beef. Ryegrass-fed beef is higher
in beta-carotene than feedlot-fed beef, and beta-carotene is an
antioxidant and precursor to vitamin A.
|The demand for goat meat has grown in
some markets of the Southeast, where populations of ethnic
groups have increased. This increased demand has led to new
marketing opportunities for the small farmer or rancher.
Tuskegee is a national leader in
goat research, and AAES scientists at Auburn are also studying
production techniques for raising goats. The demand for goat meat
has grown in some markets of the Southeastern United States, where
populations of ethnic groups from areas of the world where goat
meat comprises a significant portion of the diet have increased.
In addition, the consumption of ethnic foods has risen as consumers
explore and broaden their culinary experiences. All of this increased
demand has led to new marketing opportunities for the small farmer
with researchers from Tuskegee University, Auburn scientists are
looking at sustainable feeding systems, such as growing goats
on ryegrass pastures or growing goats on ryegrass in combination
with mimosa or other “weed” species. Scientists are
also currently working on the marketing aspects of goat production.
In conjunction with the USDA, researchers are developing grading
standards to help establish guidelines for quality and yield.
These standards are needed to better market the meat from goats.
consumption of shrimp has doubled in the past decade to 1 billion
pounds per year, making it one of the most popular seafood items
in the United States. The actual supply cannot meet this demand,
but researchers at Auburn University are attempting to address
the problem by exploring ways to commercially culture shrimp.
|National consumption of shrimp has doubled
in the past decade to one billion pounds per year. According
to AU scientists, the Alabama inland shrimp industry has the
potential to one day develop into a $10 million industry.
In affiliation with the Mississippi-Alabama
Sea Grant College Program, fisheries scientists at Auburn University
are studying the feasibility of growing marine shrimp in inland
waters. Alabama has a rich resource of underground, low-salinity
water that is not commonly used for agriculture and could be used
to raise marine shrimp.One of the first objectives of the project
is to evaluate the quality and quantity of underground water sources.Other
research involves developing and studying the techniques for growing
young shrimp in these particular waters.
to scientists working on the project, the Alabama inland shrimp
industry is already developing and has the potential to one day
become a $10 million industry.
help from AAES scientists at Auburn University, Alabama A&M University,
and Tuskegee University, Alabama farmers are gaining a foothold
in the specialty crops market, which means that Alabama consumers
will have a fresh and delicious supply of healthy foods.