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

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