Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Preliminary Results from WNC Organic Participatory Broccoli Variety Screening Trial

Do you want to know which varieties performed the best and were most heat tolerant last year in the WNC Organic Participatory Broccoli Variety Screening Trial? We are excited to share the results with you!  Below is a quick summary of what we learned and a survey you can take if you want to participate, too (and have a chance to win a free book!).  For the full report, please see the pdf at this website.

Overview of the project:
With financial support from the Organic Farming Research Foundation, we initiated an organic participatory broccoli variety screening project on the Organic Research Unit at the Mountain Research Station in Waynesville, NC. In February 2012, a group of farmers and an extension agent helped us choose regular broccoli and unusual broccoli (e.g., broccoli raab) varieties to study in a late season replicated trial.  Broccoli transplants were planted on raised beds with drip-irrigation and covered with white plastic mulch. Rowcovers were used when the plants were young to protect them from flea beetles. The season was extremely wet and we discovered that the part of the field the study was located in had drainage issues. The raised beds helped, but the flooding did have a negative effect on growth. We evaluated the plants throughout the growing season. At the end of the season we held a field day and participants also helped evaluate the plants in the field and during a taste test.
Quick summary of the results:
In this first year we found that for every trait measured, several varieties outperformed Packman, which was our standard (control) variety. Bay Meadows, Gypsy, and Belstar all performed in the top five for bead uniformity and head smoothness, indicating they are the most heat tolerant out of all the varieties studied. Growers rated the Oregon State University East Coast Population selection as their favorite. The scientists on the project rated Bay Meadows as having the best quality. Under the stressful conditions experienced in 2012 (flooding and high pest pressure), a grower in Western North Carolina could have improved head yield, side-shoot yield, marketable quality, flavor, and other characteristics by using the varieties Bay Meadows, Batavia, Belstar, and the Oregon State University West and East Coast participatory populations. Out of the unusual varieties, the Tipoff Romenesco, Atlantis, and Purple Peacock appeared to be the best performing varieties. We hope to receive continued funding from the Organic Farming Research Foundation to repeat the study this year and have more robust results.

Please also take our survey to give us feedback to build a better trial for this year. We ask you what to change in the study and what to keep the same. This feedback is extremely important for our program! Please respond to the survey by Tuesday March 5.

The survey can be found by clicking on this link.

To thank you for your time taking the survey there will be a chance for you to enter a book drawing for 'Four Season Harvest' by Eliot Coleman, 'The Organic Farmer's Business Handbook' by Richard Wiswall, or 'The Polytunnel Handbook' by Andy Mckee and Mark Gatter.
Here is what the organic broccoli varieties looked like in 2012:

Heading type varieties:



 Bay Meadows


 Blue Wind

 Di Cicco



 Green Goliath

 Green Magic



 OSU East Coast Population

 OSU West Coast Population


Premium Crop



Waltham 29

Unusual varieties:


Green Sprouting Calabrese
Purple Peacock

 Tipoff Romenesco

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

NCSU presents "Growing Hops in Western NC" Workshop

North Carolina State University presents
“Growing Hops in Western NC”

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Mountain Horticultural Crops Research & Extension Center,
455 Research Drive, Mills River, NC 28759
8:30 am to 1:00 pm
Can you make money growing hops for the all the breweries moving into the region? What does it cost to set up a hop yard? What varieties should you plant? Learn from researchers, extension personnel, experienced commercial hop growers, and brewers about the opportunities and challenges with hops production in the Southeast. Growers will share their experiences with growing and selling hops, a brewer will explain what breweries want, and NC State faculty will tell you what they’ve learned about varieties, diseases, insects, soil fertility, and the economics of production based on over six years of experience working with growers and three years of field research.  The workshop will finish up with a tour of the research hop yard.

Speakers will include researchers, growers, and a brewer: Jeanine Davis and Kelly Gaskill who conduct the NCSU hops research project, Rita Pelczar and John Wright of Blue Ridge Hops, Ryan Holmes of Holmes Brothers Hops, Stacey from Echoview Farms, and John Stuart of Green Man Brewery in Asheville. 


If you plan to attend please help us get a head count by sending an email to or call her at 828-684-3562 ext. 250.  This isn't a pre-registration, we just need to have an idea of how many chairs to set up and how much coffee to make.  Remember to bring cash or checks. We won't have a way to process credit cards.

We also have some coir string available. Talk to us if you are interested.

For information on our hops project visit . This workshop is being organized by Jeanine Davis and Kelly Gaskill.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Link to article on our forest farming project

Black cohosh root

Dee Shore wrote a really nice article in Perspectives, the NC State University College of Agriculture and Life Sciences magazine, about our forest farming project.  Thought you might be interested in reading it!  Here's the link.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Are You Planning on Attending one of the College Listening Sessions?

Photo from the Listening Session Powerpoint

Back in early January I told you about the NC State University College of Agriculture & Life Sciences Listening Sessions that are being held across the state. These are designed for the public to share with our new Dean, Richard Linton, what they think the college should be doing to serve the citizens of North Carolina.  You can read about what people have said at these sessions already. But most importantly, you should plan on attending one. If you want NC State University working on specific problems or issues, say so!

There are two more sessions left:
February 8: Western North Carolina Ag Center, Virginia Boone Center, 1301 Fanning Bridge Road, Fletcher,  8-10 a.m. | invitation and registration

February 8: Madison County Extension Center, 258 Carolina Lane, Marshall, 4-6 p.m. | invitation and registration

Here is all the information, including summaries and photos from the ones that have already taken place: Listening Sessions.  You want to see more research being done on organic agriculture or medicinal herbs or how to control diseases or whatever, this is your chance to tell the folks who make those decisions!