Novel crops

Typically grown in warmer climates, unusual crops in the UK can give higher returns.

Producing enough food while leaving space for nature will be one of the major challenges faced by humanity over the course of this century, particularly as the climate continues to warm. Growing higher-value crops typically requires less land, permitting more land to be devoted to conserving biodiversity. Future climate change may create opportunities to grow novel, high-value crops in areas which were previously too cold. As these species originate from warmer climates, they may require more specific microclimate conditions than traditional crop varieties. To realise the potential to grow them, we must therefore identify where the best locations will be. This research will develop and apply the latest high-resolution microclimate models to identify places that are most climatically conducive to growing a range of novel crops, using Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly as a case study. This region is particularly suitable for the study of microclimate and agriculture due to a rarity of frosts and growing interest in the production of small-scale, high-value niche products. We hope to help resolve conflicts between farming and biodiversity and suggest practical solutions to the issue food security which can be applied globally.

Novel crops can only be grown in the warmest microsites. An inability to identify these sites leads to costly hit-or-miss, inappropriate planting. Viticulture provides an example of the complexities of crop responses to climate change. Warmer summers could increase the range of cultivars that can be successfully grown but more extreme weather and late spring frosts could increase risk of damage.

We are building tools to reveal the suitability of sites for crops in the agrisector. Our vineyard microclimate maps indicate the most suitable sites for growing grapes to support the flourishing UK wine industry. READ MORE

Our microclimate models can provide information on:

Site selection

Cultivar/crop selection

Land management

Our research helped Camel Valley to become the first UK wine producer to receive a Protected Designation Origin (PDO) from the European Union, in relation to its ‘Darnibole’ vineyard.