This article was written by Margaret
Bloomquist, Research Assistant in the NC Alternative Crops and Organics
Program. She has been the coordinator of our two broccoli projects for the past
Five years of conventional and
organic broccoli research in Western North Carolina have culminated and we’d
like to share some results and open discussion of where to go from here.The
five year conventional broccoli project is discussed first followed by the four
year organic broccoli project.
Eastern Broccoli Project.
Goals: To create a regional supply of broccoli, that would result
in lower transportation costs to get the product to market. To develop Eastern
grown broccoli as a new high-value specialty crop for Eastern farmers. To
develop new breeding stocks and the expertise to help grow the Eastern broccoli
The Project: The multi-state, multi-disciplinary research team of private
and public breeders, production specialists, and market developers conducted an
amazing five years of field and market research. The project evaluated and
created 136 new hybrids specifically for our region with an emphasis on heat
resistance and high quality. This project demonstrated that Western North
Carolina is at an advantage to fill the Eastern U.S. gap in production during
the summer months. The trials were conducted from Maine to South Carolina. We
conducted our studies at the Mountain Research Station in Waynesville, NC. In
the Phase I trials, a large number of varieties were set out on two planting
dates and evaluated. Forty-six varieties advanced to the Phase II trials where
they were grown on the research station and set out at five planting dates.
Four varieties were chosen from those trials to advance to the on-farm trials
were conducted in Henderson County. Regional varieties best suited to mountain
management were identified, even one with different quality traits that would
be suited for organic growers.
Varieties Released or Remarketed to Eastern growers because of this project:
(Seminis, Lieutenant follow-up)
(Seminis, Lieutenant follow-up)
and Durapak 19 (Syngenta)
*More varieties are in the pipeline.
Keep an eye out for ‘Greenpak’ from Syngenta and others from Seminis and Bejo.
Spacing and Cultural Practices: Early research in this project conducted at Cornell focused
on plant population effects on yield and quality for optimal production in the
conventional market. Tighter in-row spacing than usually used was found to
generate optimal crown size and yield per acre. After growers observed what we
were doing on the research station with this project, some Western North
Carolina farmers began using plastic mulch (black in spring/fall and
white-on-black in summer plantings) with drip-irrigation, double rows on the
bed, with an in-row spacing of 8 inches and 12 inches between the rows. This
has been shown to be the most productive and generally yielded 600-800 boxes
The website for the Eastern Broccoli Project can be found here. Broccoli varieties
for the Eastern U.S. as recommended from the Eastern Broccoli Project are
linked here. And the 2016
Southeastern U.S. Vegetable Crop Handbook with additional variety
recommendations for our region is linked here.
This project was funded by a $3.2
million grant from the United States Department of Agriculture under the
Specialty Crops Research Initiative, with an additional $1.7 million in
matching contributions from participating commercial partners.
Participatory Organic Broccoli
Organic farmers were very interested
in the large Eastern Broccoli Project but were curious to know if the varieties
identified and developed for conventional growers were the best for organic
production, too. We set out to conduct a complementary organic broccoli trial
in which the farmers played an active role in designing and evaluating.. Twenty
crown cut varieties and ten unusual varieties were chosen by growers and tested
in what we referred to as Mother Trials on the Mountain Research Station in
Waynesville, NC. They were evaluated for heat tolerance, yield, and insect and
disease resistance. At the same time, we worked to create the best organic
management practices for Western North Carolina growers. This included the use
of farmscaping and white-on-black plastic. Growers were interested in yields,
quality, types appropriate for different markets, long season availability,
resistance or tolerance to harlequin bugs, and resistance to Alternaria.
on-farm trials were referred to as Baby Trials. Working with the growers, we
chose six of the best varieties from the Mother Trials and grew them out on
organic farms at various elevations in the region.These are presented in order
of best overall quality and yield:
(unfortunately, this is difficult to find seed for now)
We thank our on-farm cooperators
from 2011-2015 on both of these projects:
North River Farms, Mills River, NC
Fletcher Creek Farm, Fletcher, NC
Edmundson Produce, Henderson County,
Jason Edny, Ednyville, NC
McConnell Farms, Hendersonville, NC
Miller Farms, Marble, NC
Moyer Family Farm, Castlewood, VA
Hoopers Creek Botanicals, Fletcher,
Green River Preserve Farm, Zirconia,
A big thank you to Dr. Thomas
Bjorkman for his leadership on the Eastern Broccoli Project and to all of our
collaborators, stakeholders, and especially all of the WNC growers and industry
representatives who make our work possible and meaningful.
Please contact your county extension
agent or Research Assistant Margaret_Bloomquist@ncsu.edu for more information
on growing broccoli in the mountains.
Labels: broccoli, East Coast Broccoli Project, organic broccoli, western North Carolina