Identifying Illinois specialty crops
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URBANA -- Chances
are that the jar of horseradish in your refrigerator and the can of
pumpkin filling in your pantry originated on farms in Illinois. In a
state in which corn and soybeans take the lead, this information may
come as a surprise to some people. In fact, about 50 percent of the
commercial horseradish and 90 percent of the processing pumpkins in
the United States are grown in Illinois. Several Illinois
organizations want this and other statistics about Illinois
specialty crops to be common knowledge.
"Specialty crops such as fruit,
vegetables, herbs and Christmas trees are an important but often
overlooked component of Illinois' agricultural economy," says Wilma
Clark, chair of the Illinois Specialty Growers Association. "Demand
for these crops is increasing, with opportunities for Illinois
growers to capture a greater market share. But accurate information
about current specialty crops production and growers' needs are
necessary to help realize these opportunities."
In order to get accurate
information, specialty crop growers in Illinois are being asked to
complete a questionnaire about their operation. The surveys were
sent out in the mail on Jan. 21. Questions on the survey include information on the number of acres, types of crops, whether
the crop is sold fresh or for processing, and what its dollar value
"Better knowledge about the
value of the state's specialty crops production will allow Illinois
to receive a greater portion of federal grants for research,
education and nutritional assistance," says Mohammad Babadoost, an
Extension and research plant pathologist at the University of
Babadoost says that Illinois
grows at least 64 vegetable crops and 15 fruit crops commercially,
but when it comes time to apply for federal grants or funding from
other sources for Extension work and research on these crops, it's
important to be able to document how much each crop is worth to the
state and to the nation.
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Brad Schwab, state statistician
for the Illinois Department of Agriculture, says, "The goal of this
survey is not to identify individual producers but to give a more
accurate picture of the value of specialty crops overall in the
state and to improve production and marketing."
The questionnaire was developed
by the University of Illinois Fruit and Vegetable Crops Task Force,
the Illinois Specialty Growers Association, and the Illinois
Department of Agriculture in cooperation with the Illinois
Agricultural Statistics Service. The survey will be conducted with
funding from a state grant.
Specialty crop growers who did
not receive a survey are invited to obtain a copy by calling Donnie
Fike or Paul Sueper at 1 (800) 622-9865.
Copies of the questionnaire
will also be available at the fruit and vegetable meetings scheduled
for January, February and March.
more information, contact Mohammad Babadoost at (217) 333-1523 at
of Illinois news release]