The Alternative Crops Unit within the Plant Science Program is devoted to identifying specialty and other high value crops suited to Virginia smallholder agriculture. Currently, pursuing research on hops (Humulus lupulus L.) and alternative malt grains in support of a growing Virginia craft beer industry. We are also working with smallholders in Southside Virginia to develop vegetable soybean (edamame) as an alternative cash crop for former tobacco farmers.
In the past, we investigated the agronomic needs of Urtica dioica L., a species that offers promise as a source of food, feed, and fiber. We are also working in cooperation with the US Forest Service to study the role of microbe interactions in ecological adaptation of ramps (Allium tricoccum Ait.) and black cohosh [Actaea racemosa (Nutt.) L.]. Native to the Appalachian forest ecosystem, ramps and black cohosh threatened by uncontrolled harvesting for food and medicine, and the goal of the project is to develop protocols for managed cultivation on private holdings.
Contact: Laban K. Rutto