4 Exotic Crops You Can Grow in the United States Thanks to Climate Change
Climate change remains a fixture in the news cycle. Scientists warn of dire consequences if we can’t stem greenhouse gas emissions. No matter what efforts to contain carbon off-gassing amount to, at the very least we’ll have to adapt to a world where warmer temperatures and volatile weather reigns.
For farmers, this has meant redrawing the map of where crops are grown. This has proved a real challenge for farmers growing cash crops like beans and barley, which used to flourish in climates that were temperate but are getting warmer.
But it’s also raised some intriguing new possibilities, including crops once regarded as too tropical to grow in the United States.
Following are four crops being introduced to America in the age of climate change.
- Kiwi Fruit:
In parts of east Texas, traditional staples like pears and peaches are struggling in warmer weather. So, researchers from Texas A&M and Clemson helped introduce golden kiwi cultivars, which thrive in the heat and acidic soil of the region.
It’s a potentially lucrative crop, but climate change poses some challenges, too. The kiwi is sensitive to the cold snaps which sometimes hit the region. These frosts are becoming more unpredictable and extreme as part of this environmental transition, threatening this exotic crop.
Hummus is having a moment these days, driving demand for the humble chickpea.
Farmers have been more than willing to oblige this demand, because growing chickpeas is much less resource-intensive than traditional crops. It also tends to replenish the soil and protect against disease and pests.
All this means we’ll see more farmers adopting chickpeas as a new crop of choice. They’ll encounter obstacles in places like India and China, which have erected tariffs to protect domestic industries. Nonetheless, the future of this legume looks bright.
Ok, so watermelons might not qualify as exotic. But they’re definitely benefiting from warmer climates.
In the South, which produces most of the nation’s watermelons, harvesting comes earlier and earlier every year.
On the one hand, that’s good, because it makes the crop available to consumers for a longer period of time.
On the other hand, it poses challenges. It has different competition (from sources like Mexico, which produces a late winter crop that overlaps more with spring and summer harvests in the US now). And it’s getting harder to find pickers from places like Mexico, which is tending to its own harvest.
So, it will probably never scale, but there is a modest increase in growing the guanabana or soursop tree as it is sometimes called.
The guanabana is an oblong, green, spiky-looking green fruit with white flesh. It’s become a favorite of health-conscious smoothie aficionados, particularly since spurious rumors of the guanabana’s effectiveness in fighting cancer began circulating.
Those reports might have been false, but the guanabana is delicious and nutritious. And thanks to climate change, it’s becoming more widely grown.
Its biggest challenge seems to be generating demand. Will guanabana become the next viral superfood? Or will it stay a niche favorite of health food fanatics and consumers who hail from the Caribbean?
Only time will tell–much like it will with the effects of climate change.