Sprouting Potential: Top 5 Emerging Crops in 2019

Are these crops on the cusp of going big? Time will tell.

By Boyce Upholt

Hemp. Photo: ©

Hemp. Photo: ©

1. Hemp

Already, 41 states allow some cultivation of hemp. Since the 2018 farm bill removed hemp from the Controlled Substances Act, the rest should soon follow. A new THC-free seed, announced in January by a Kentucky research firm, could be a key breakthrough, sending this niche crop big-time.

Pulses. Photo: ©

Pulses. Photo: ©

2. Pulses

Protein-rich, gluten-free: Pulses, the dried seeds of certain legumes, suit many of today’s health-conscious consumers. They also have a quick growing season, require few inputs and restore nitrogen to soils. Big in Canada and the U.S. Northwest, pulses are becoming an alternative to summer fallow in the High Plains, too.

Bamboo. Photo: ©

Bamboo. Photo: ©

3. Bamboo

As an evergreen perennial crop, bamboo is taking off across Canada and the United States, especially in Alabama. With projected per-acre values of up to $1,000, bamboo is set to spread … intentionally. Requiring little water or fertilizer and no pesticides, plants can be harvested for up to 50 years.

Quinoa. Photo: ©

4. Quinoa

The United States consumes nearly half the global supply of this cereal, but North America has proved tough for the crop—always either too cold or too hot. Grain processors are hopeful that Canada’s prairie provinces might prove perfect, adding to scattered U.S. acreage across the Mountain West.

Perennial rice. Photo: ©

5. Perennials

Perennial plants have deep roots that add to soil health, helping them grab headlines. The perennial wheat kernza is already grown in the United States, but yields are low. In China, though, perennial rice is grown on thousands of acres, with yields often matching those of conventional rice.