Broccoli crowns began appearing in North Carolina Eastern Broccoli Quality trial plots in late June. Evaluations of hybrids in that planting are now about 90 percent complete. Broccoli hybrids in the second planting, which was transplanted on June 12, are just beginning to show signs of heading. A third planting went in the ground last week.
The season in Western NC started out hot, then turned cooler in late June. Summer heat and humidity returned in July. Some Alternaria and secondary fungal infections related to minor insect damage have been noted but managed.
The limited amounts of seed available for new hybrids means that Quality trials plots are necessarily small. To achieve results that are representative of performance, plots of 15 plants per hybrid are replicated three times per planting, with three plantings per season happening at each Quality trial location.
Carol Dong, Graduate Research Assistant with Miguel Gómez at Cornell University, recently visited broccoli growers and food hubs in southwest Virginia to collect information on local production and postharvest practices and costs. She was accompanied by Agricultural Consultant Wythe Morris, who helped put together the itinerary, and Virginia Tech Extension agent Ashley Edwards.
Despite some challenges, the growers in Southwest Virginia are optimistic about broccoli and consider it an attractive crop. Dong learned about cultural practices and cost drivers in the region and will use the information to update crop budgets developed in 2012. Labor costs have increased, but that expense has been offset by a decrease in the cost of diesel. The overall cost of production is not expected to be significantly different than it was in 2012.
At the Southwest Virginia Farmers Market and Appalachian Harvest, Dong observed various cooling technologies related to her work on cost efficiencies and supply chain optimization. Top icing and refrigeration are commonly used for cooling the broccoli in the region.
An SCRI funded project to make broccoli a major eastern crop