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Nov 18

Meeting the demand for Eastern Broccoli

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New broccoli varieties (right) will be at less risk for distortions that ruin quality (left).

Broccoli is one of America’s most popular vegetables, worth nearly a billion dollars a year to farmers. A lot of broccoli is eaten in the East, but little is grown there. Buyers want eastern broccoli because locally grown food is popular, and high fuel prices raise costs. Unfortunately, current varieties under eastern growing conditions too often make heads that are not good enough to sell.

Plant breeders at public institutions have recently developed broccoli strains that make top-quality broccoli despite warmer eastern weather. They will be the basis of varieties that make year-round eastern production possible. This project provides a complete solution to the problem by addressing each of the six barriers to success.  We will improve germplasm, test regional experimental varieties across the eastern region, release new varieties, produce hybrid seed for growers, inform broccoli growers of the best production and food safety methods, and establish robust distribution channels.  Our assembled team includes breeders, production specialists, and market developers. Team members come from industry, land grant colleges and the USDA.  We have the breeding stocks, expertise and market presence to develop a substantial eastern broccoli industry in 5-10 years. This project will benefit society in many ways. It will make more local food available, provide economic development in depressed areas, reduce energy needed for transportation and save Western irrigation water. Our vision is to create a regional food network for an important nutritious vegetable. That network may serve as a model for other specialty crops.