In Charleston, South Carolina, Brian Ward (in photo below) is supervising and evaluating the first Eastern Broccoli Quality trial of the year at the Clemson Coastal Research and Education Center. Quality trials let us compare new hybrids and current commercial standards with respect to several attributes that contribute to the appearance of broccoli crowns. New hybrids that beat the standards can move to Yield trials the next year for evaluation in an on-farm production setting – such as the Georgia trial described in our last blog post. In addition to the Charleston site, Quality trials run at four other locations from Maine to Florida, with three plantings per location per season.
Each Quality trial site grows broccoli using production methods appropriate for the region. At Charleston, where the soil is a sandy loam, Ward transplants double rows onto raised beds covered with black plastic mulch. In addition to suppressing weeds and retaining soil moisture, the plastic helps maintain the structure of the planting bed.
Evaluations of the first two Quality trial plantings in Charleston are ongoing through the end of May and into early June; a third Charleston planting next fall will be evaluated in November.