From Niche Crop to Mainstream Success

Oats, triticale, hull-less barley, lupin, faba beans and buckwheat are rarely cultivated. The EU project CROPDIVA intends to change that. Agroscope analyses the value chains of four of these crops in order to promote their cultivation and processing.

Starting in 2023, the Swiss Confederation intends to promote the cultivation of grain legumes. This could have a positive impact on the cultivation of these niche crops. However, further measures are needed if we want to see these and other rarely grown crops on consumers’ dinner plates. For this reason, Agroscope experts looked at the entire value chains of oats, triticale, faba beans and lupin. Findings are based on interviews with the relevant stakeholders: breeders and researchers, growers, the processing industry and the retail market.

Using niche crops to counteract climate change

Niche crops can help prepare the agricultural sector for the challenges of global warming. They could be just the ticket as part of a mixed cultivation or as an additional rotation crop. What’s more, they could give consumers more variety on their plates. For niche crops to become mainstream successes, their cultivation and marketing must be geared to local and national framework conditions.

The situation of the niche crops under consideration is different, however. On the one hand, the grain crops oats and triticale are fairly widely grown, but in Switzerland they are used primarily as animal feed. Opportunites for processing oats and triticale into different products and deriving greater earnings from them are limited where animal feed is concerned.

On the other hand, the legumes faba beans and lupin are at present seldom cultivated in Switzerland. The reasons for this are their lower yield potential, information and experience gaps (both in terms of cultivation as well as processing and marketing) and higher production and market risks.

Use in trendy foods increases value-added

Current social trends, such as an interest in locavore eating or plant-based diets, could be harnessed to promote niche crops – oat-based beverages being an example. Even the trend towards consuming a varied and healthy diet could be exploited – pulses, for example, make for a popular change of menu. Previous agricultural traditions (e.g. that of growing faba beans) could be built upon. Finally, regions with a certain clustering of farms that grow or process niche crops are well suited to creating a value chain.

When creating a value chain, the cross-stage cooperation of all stakeholders, financial resources for the market launch and good communication with consumers are important. Marketing can highlight the origin, cultivation method or health aspects of the product to satisfy current consumer needs.


  • Oats and triticale are niche crops which previously have been used almost exclusively as animal feed in Switzerland. Their use in the human diet can increase value-added.
  • Faba beans and lupin have low yield potential, and there are information gaps as well as higher production and market risks. Their use in trendy products (e.g. oat milk) can increase value-added.
  • Trends supporting the production and consumption of local/regional products and a plant-based, healthy diet should be harnessed in order to promote niche crops.
  • Old traditions (e.g. the growing of faba beans) or regions with a clustering of farms may prove favourable for creating an efficient value chain.
  • Cooperation between all stakeholders, financial resources for the market launch and good communication with consumers are factors that lead to success.
  • Growing these sorts of niche crops could help to increase crop diversity in arable farming as well as contribute to greater dietary diversity.
To the archive