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Ag Secretary Sonny Purdue tours the US Vegetable Lab

The US Vegetable Laboratory in Charleston, SC received a visit this past August from Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue, who toured the facility and expressed his support for agricultural research, including the Eastern Broccoli Project.

The clip below, from RFD-TV via YouTube, shows some highlights from the tour. Our colleague Mark Farnham, who heads the broccoli breeding program at the Lab, appears in several clips. Quality trial leader and Clemson CREC Research Scientist Brian Ward supplied the broccoli seedlings and rating charts shown at 1:31, and Ward can be seen discussing the project with Purdue at 2:02.

Evaluation time for NC Quality trials

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.

Plot of broccoli with broccoli crowns,
Broccoli in North Carolina Quality trials began forming crowns in late June.
Evaluating broccoli crowns in North Carolina Quality trials
Margaret Bloomquist evaluates broccoli crowns in North Carolina Quality trials.

Broccoli Insights from Southwest Virginia

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.

Carol Dong discusses broccoli production with grower Duane Cassell and Virginia Extension Agent Ashley Edwards.
Carol Dong (right) discusses broccoli production with grower Duane Cassell and Virginia Extension Agent Ashley Edwards.
Broccoli in the cold storage room at the Southwest Virginia Farmers' Market.
Broccoli in the cold storage room at the Southwest Virginia Farmers’ Market.

Broccoli is the future of food

Producers Rebecca Davis and Matt Toder of NBC Universal visited our trial site in Geneva to film a segment for their new feature on The Future of Food.  The future does look bright for broccoli! Thanks for making us part of the story.

NBC filmed a segment for The Future of Food at the Eastern Broccoli trial site at Cornell University's NYSAES in Geneva NY.
NBC filmed a segment for The Future of Food at the Eastern Broccoli trial site at Cornell University’s NYSAES in Geneva NY. 16 Aug 16

Funded again!

The Eastern Broccoli Project was successful in its renewal application, so we are moving ahead for another five years. We were awarded two years of funding and approved for an additional three years. Thanks very much to all the collaborators who made this such a high-ranking application, and to the USDA-NIFA Specialty Crops Research Initiative for funding it.
As we ramp up activities during September, you will see more news on this blog.

Broccoli is popular across ages, incomes and weights

That young children dislike broccoli is a commonly held assumption. Many parents know that is entirely untrue, as their small children gobble up the little trees with abandon. USDA offers consumption statistics that help inform this question. It turns out that young children, both boys and girls eat nearly as much broccoli among their vegetables as adults to. The drop occurs with teenagers, particularly boys. Young women start eating broccoli sooner than young men, but it becomes a larger part of their vegetable consumption as they get older.

Broccoli consumption by age group. (Source USDA
Broccoli consumption by age group. (Source USDA

The statistics also show the broccoli consumption is similar among low income, mid-income, and high income consumers. There are small differences in total vegetable consumption among income groups, but not enough to support the common impression that low income consumers are not getting vegetables.
Broccoli consumption is also consistent among weight categories. There is little difference among consumers who are healthy weight, overweight, or obese. Notably, obese children eat slightly more broccoli than their lighter counterparts.

Broccoli is a large share of cooking vegetables e

Broccoli consumption by income level.  Low,300% of poverty line.
Broccoli consumption by income level. Low,<185% of poverty line; High, >300% of poverty line.(Source
ven though it constitutes only about 4% of total vegetable consumption. The majority of vegetable consumption (58%) constitutes tomatoes and potatoes, And much of the rest (26%) are salad vegetables. Cooking vegetables constitute the remaining 16%, so broccoli share of those is significant.


Eastern Broccoli Project trials will be on display this week as part of educational events in three states.

On Wednesday, August 19, a production trial will be featured in a Fresh Market Vegetable Twilight Meeting at W.D. Henry and Sons in Eden, NY. As part of the event, which runs from 6 to 8:30 pm, Cornell Vegetable Specialist Christy Hoepting and project director Thomas Björkman will lead a tour and discussion of Eastern Broccoli Project trials.

Also on August 19, Carroll County Virginia Extension Agent Suzanne Slack will host an informational session on growing summer broccoli. The event, which is advertised on the Carroll County Extension Facebook page, takes place at 6 pm on at Light’s Farm in Laurel Fork, VA.

From 8:30 am to 12:30 pm on August 20, broccoli project trials will be part of the Alternative Crops and Organics Research Highlights Tour held by Jeanine Davis and Margaret Bloomquist at North Carolina State University’s research station in Waynesville, NC. See for more information.