Botanical gardens have long been part of our everyday lives, but what if they also produced food?
The answer, according to researchers, is not that easy.
A new paper by University of Queensland botanists says that growing botanical crops can be a very lucrative proposition for both commercial and agricultural farmers, but not everyone is on board.
Read more about botany:The research, published in the Australian Journal of Botany, looked at the growing industry of edible and medicinal plants in the United States, and the implications of the plant-based diets on human health.
It found that, in a world with ever-growing numbers of edible crops and growing demand for medicinal foods, the industry was able to maintain high levels of productivity in the face of ever-increasing demand for botanical products.
But, according the paper, while the potential of botanical agriculture is huge, there are some drawbacks to it.
The research was conducted in the USA, and involved researchers from the University of Washington, the University at Albany, the United Kingdom’s University of Sussex, and California State University, Fresno.
The researchers said there were “a few key issues” to consider when looking at edible and/or medicinal crops in the future.
One of those is cost.
While botanical farming is not currently profitable for most growers, the cost of cultivation and the production of food are significantly higher than traditional farming, the researchers found.
The research found that the cost per plant in the edible or medicinal crop market ranged from US$15,000 to US$45,000, with a higher value for edible crops like kiwi and watermelon.
The cost per tonne of harvested fruit and vegetables in the botanical industry was estimated at US$0.02 to US0.04.
But if the researchers’ analysis of botanicals’ yields was taken into account, it would be a more reasonable amount to consider the value of producing edible or medicine plants.
The average annual yields of edible or herbal crops are between 1.4 and 1.9 kilograms, and medicinal plant yields are between 3.3 and 4.6 kilograms per hectare.
So, while botanical cultivation has the potential to produce a lot of edible/medicinal food, the real costs of producing these products are far higher than the prices farmers are making on their crops.
While this may seem like an obvious point to point out to consumers, there is another major concern to consider as well.
Botanical farming does not always have the best potential for providing a sustainable supply chain, according a paper published in Theoretical Biology in May.
“Some cultivars of edible plants are more efficient than others at producing high yields, and thus they are more desirable than others,” the researchers said.
They wrote that, although there is a strong relationship between the yield of a crop and the productivity of its cultivar, there may also be a strong correlation between the productivity and environmental factors.
“The main factors influencing productivity may be soil type and water availability, and soil fertility, temperature, soil acidity, and nutrient availability,” the authors wrote.
“As these are dependent on factors beyond cultivation, they may also have an impact on crop quality and yields.”
The study is the latest in a series of studies to look at the benefits of growing edible and medicinal plants.
A new study published in HortScience also found that producing edible and herbal plants had the potential for a significant positive impact on the environment.
The study, published by the University College London, examined the potential benefits of producing medicinal plants, based on their potential to improve health and quality of life.
It found edible plants have been shown to reduce the amount of greenhouse gases emitted by the manufacture of chemicals, and provide food that can be used to reduce environmental impact.
The authors, led by Dr Caroline Moles, said that they were surprised to find that edible plants were being used to produce edible crops that were not being used in other ways.
“It is possible that edible plant products may be beneficial in the production and consumption of edible foods because of their unique physiological properties, which may benefit the health of humans and other animals, as well as to reduce or eliminate greenhouse gas emissions,” they wrote.
While the potential impact of edible crop production is very exciting, Dr Moles said it was important to look beyond the crops themselves and look at how they were grown.
“In some cases, we may be seeing more benefit from edible crops than from medicinal crops, because they are easier to grow and produce,” she said.
“And there may be some additional benefits to medicinal plants that are not yet known.”