THIS is a new feature at the Royal Show, and it signifies the increasing importance of the non-food sector as a contributor to farm incomes. The list of companies and organisations taking part this year includes ADAS, British Biogen, the British Association for Bio-fuels and Oils and the Central Science Laboratory.
Energy crops have a prominent place in the exhibit, reflecting the market expansion that is already taking place to help the government meet its targets for expanding energy production from non-fossil fuel resources.
Bioethanol and biodiesel are already produced commercially in some countries, and the UK acreage of crops such as miscanthus grass and short rotation coppice is currently expanding to fuel the special power stations that are already working or are at the planning stage. There is also potential for using energy crops to fuel a new generation of self-contained combination heating and power installations.
Crops for oil production are also included in the exhibit, and these cover essential oils, and the special vegetable derived oils used in the cosmetics and pharmaceutical industries. Fibre crop production is another potential market covered by the exhibit, with special emphasis on hemp growing, and there is also information about crops for commercial starch production and the possibilities of using potato waste for packaging.
The recent Curry Commission report has emphasised the need for a long-term national strategy for non-food crop production, and the Royal Show provides the ideal starting point to find out more about the opportunities offered by this type of crop production.
Left: One of the special features of this years crop demonstration area (grid ref Q13) is a plot display of crops that are relatively new but could have commercial potential on UK farms. Among the less familiar crops on show will be sunflowers, soya beans and lupins, and technical specialists will be on hand to discuss how they might perform under UK conditions and the sales potential for UK growers.