Merlin Dillon, Area Extension Agent, Agronomy
Several alternative new crops have been tested in the San Luis Valley by Cooperative Extension. Most tests have been in cooperation with Dr. Duane Johnson, CSU Extension Specialist, Ft. Collins, CO. Dr. Johnson has stressed the need for (PPM) in new crop development. This is Production, Processing, and Marketing. Each aspect of an alternative crop must be planned in detail.
New crop research in the San Luis Valley has involved canola, quinoa, naked barley, cucumbers, durum wheat, faba beans, pinto beans, and soybeans.
Canola was first tested here in 1986 through a small feasibility study grant from Colorado Department of Agriculture. Commercial production of canola began in 1992 when a contract was developed with InterMountain Canola of Idaho Falls, Idaho. In 1993 there were 4500 acres of canola followed by 6000 acres in 1994 and 1995. The highest farmer yield of canola was 3700 lbs/acre, which was reported to be the highest ever recorded in North America. Value of the 1993 crop was estimated at $1.2 million. Production ceased in 1996 when the InterMountain contract was no longer available.
Quinoa was first tested here in 1982 or 1983. Production is limited to areas without high August temperatures. Temperatures above about 92 degrees when quinoa is flowering blasts the set and leaves empty heads. Production is limited because of lack of registered pesticides for weed and insect control. Production is only 400-600 acres each year.