Through cultivation optimization, variety trials and mapping of valorization opportunities, Aroma-roots aims to encourage acreage expansion of horseradish, lovage and angelica in Flanders.
Flemish farmers are actively seeking crops to expand their crop diversification and rotation because of green measures imposed by the EU. Indeed, alternating different crops prevents soil depletion and keeps diseases and pests in check.
Horseradish (Armoracia rusticana), lovage (Levisticum officinale) and angelica (Angelica archangelica) are three aromatic root crops that can be introduced as a new crop within a rotation scheme. In Belgium, there is a tradition of growing medicinal herbs. Thus, in the Flemish Ardennes and in Pays des Collines, some growers are still active to cultivate horseradish, lovage and angelica. But in total area, the acreage of these herbs is very limited, especially in the Flemish region.
However, contract cultivation of these root crops provides income security for the grower. And both fresh plant material and extracted aromas are used in numerous food and non-food products. There are quite a few outlets and, moreover, Belgian flavor and extraction companies are actively looking for quality locally grown herbs.
In short, the cultivation of root crops can thus offer an important contribution to the profitability of Flemish farms.
But since these are niche crops, the cultivation technical knowledge of farmers and the range of varieties is still quite limited. There is therefore a need for both exchange of knowledge among farmers and new input from knowledge from other countries and research that can be tested on trial plots.
Aroma-roots is an agricultural (LA) track with the aim of expanding the acreage of aromatic root crops such as horseradish, lovage and angelica in Flanders by providing an answer to cultivation problems.
On the one hand, the focus is on knowledge expansion and sharing between farmers, but also between farmers and processors. Aroma-roots is therefore strongly committed to matchmaking between the two.
Several trials will be constructed to solve the cultivation challenges. For example, mechanization of harvesting, planting, sowing and weed control will be investigated. In addition, several variety trials will also be laid out. In this way, Aroma-roots examines the influence of the cultivation technique used/existing varieties on the quality of the contents of the harvested roots and whether they meet the requirements of the processing industry.
Finally, this project also identifies the valorization potential of alternative plant parts, such as leaves, stem and seeds. And it seeks new outlets for by-products released after extraction.
Aroma-roots primarily targets the primary sector, more specifically outdoor crop growers. Both conventional, and organic farms are eligible for this regardless of farm size.
Secondly, Aroma-roots wants to address extraction companies that process the aromas from root crops into stable semi-finished products, such as essential oils.
The third category of target market is industries that process the fresh material or the aromas into a finished product. The 3 root crops can find their application in the food industry, animal feed industry, food supplement industry, beverage industry, pharmaceutical and cosmetic industry and bio crop protection industry.
With Aroma-roots, we aim to increase yield stability and profitability for the primary producer while delivering a stable quality product to processors. Through matchmaking, we connect farmers with companies so that the farmer is assured of his marketing channel with this innovative root crop and the processing companies can count on the necessary supply of quality raw materials.
Flanders' FOOD manages and coordinates the project. The implementation is in the hands of:
The Aroma-roots project started on 01/01/2023 and runs until 31/12/2025 (project duration 3 years). Until then, participation is possible. Afterwards, results can be requested (subject to payment).
SME: € 500 per year + membership FF
Large enterprise: € 2,000 per year + FF membership