Fresh broccoli from Mexico now plays an important role

The Eastern Broccoli Project is intended to supply some of the growth in broccoli consumption in the East. The bulk of supply comes from coastal California in the summer and the desert southwest in the winter. But now, imports from Mexico are playing a greater role.

When the project started in 2009, Mexico was not a significant supplier of fresh broccoli to the East. That has changed. The volume from Mexico to the US is over $200 million per year. The frozen market is almost entirely from Mexico and Central America.

Fresh wholesale value is up from $60 to 250 million. Frozen has risen from $250 to $350 million.
The total value of imported fresh broccoli has quadrupled over the past ten years. Current imports represents about one fourth of the total wholesale volume. That amount can put pressure on prices. Frozen has risen modestly.
The wholesale price has risen from $0.30 to $0.50 since 2008
The wholesale price of imported broccoli has been rising steadily.

Mexican imports primarily compete with winter production in Florida and Georgia. The volume in the winter months has been rising over the last five winters, more than the summer imports. Growers in those areas are also expressing concern about the effect of the USMCA trade deal, fearing that it would allow dumping in their market.

Eastern production is closer to the Northeast market than either Mexico or the desert, but it is significant. The distance to the terminal market in Bronx NY from Hastings, Florida is 1000 miles in 15h of driving.  From San Luis Potosi, Mexico is 2400 miles in 36 hours, and from Yuma, Arizona is 2600 miles in 39 h.

Demand peaks at 60 million pound in January and bottoms in July at 20 million pounds. is fairl
Winter is the peak of fresh broccoli imports, but there is significant volume all year. The quantity shipped in January and February has been increasing most.

 

Volume varies modestly between 40 and 60 million pounds with peaks in March and October
Frozen broccoli imports are fairly stable throughout the year, reflecting a continuous consumer demand.

There are some facilities to freeze broccoli in New York. Developing a frozen deal for New York growers would be needed for a customer like a school system that specified New York broccoli under the farm-to-school program, but needed ready-to use product in their kitchens during the school year. The frozen-food giant Bonduelle raises and freezes broccoli in Québec, so the economics can be made to work nearby.

Thanks to USDA-ERS economists Kamron Daugherty and Broderick Parr for compiling this important information.

More Eastern farms are raising broccoli according to 2017 Census of Agriculture

We have eagerly awaited the 2017 Census of Agriculture to see whether the Eastern Broccoli Project is having an effect. Today, the results were released, allowing us to compare our early effect (2017) with the pre-project baseline. We are happy to see so many more Eastern farms finding a place for broccoli in their crop mix.

State
2012
2017
Gain
Maine 145 273 88%
Vermont 87 111 28%
New Hampshire 61 116 90%
Massachusetts 135 243 80%
Rhode Island 25 27 8%
Connecticut 51 132 159%
New York 290 535 84%
Michigan 158 443 180%
Pennsylvania 245 522 113%
New Jersey 64 136 113%
Delaware 5 19 280%
West Virginia 23 95 313%
Maryland 44 76 73%
Virginia 105 221 110%
North Carolina 140 317 126%
Tennessee 28 142 407%
South Carolina 34 100 194%
Georgia 44 138 214%
Florida 76 168 121%

Fertilizing the broccoli orchard

We have good fertility recommendations for various areas in the East on the resources tab.

A recent Bizarro comic has a great reference to broccoli’s ability to use fertilizer.

Fertilizer makes broccoli grow big
(c) Dan Piraro Used by permission.

We are not in cahoots with the “National Board of Broccoli Producers,” so broccolini is a fair stand-in at the Eastern Broccoli Project.

Waist high broccoli in a field with black soil.
Broccoli on muck soil gets a lot of nitrogen and water, and can grow very tall. Retired Cornell broccoli researcher Joe Shail provides the scale.

One consideration is that broccoli can get too big, and get hollow stem. Growers harvesting in the heat of summer find that making the last nitrogen fertilization four weeks before harvest helps avoid the excessive burst.

Some early varieties are maturing in 50 days in the summer. If you do the math, that means the last nitrogen side dress or fertigation is just three weeks after transplanting. Putting on ~150 lb/ac of nitrogen without burning the plants takes some planning.

Food Safety Workshop on Packing House Practices and Design

As part of their collaboration with the Eastern Broccoli Project, Produce Safety Alliance Director Betsy Bihn and University of Vermont Agricultural Engineer Chris Callahan have developed guidelines for the hygienic design of post-harvest equipment and surfaces in fresh vegetable packing operations. Prior to their efforts, this information was not readily available to growers and packers of fresh produce.

Now Bihn and Callahan are teaming up with Cornell Cooperative Extension Specialist Robert Hadad to host a workshop on Farm Food Safety – Sanitary Design and Practice Considerations. The event will take place on March 27 from 9 am to 4:30 pm in Jordan Hall at Cornell AgriTech, 630 W North St., Geneva, NY 14456.

Topics to be covered include:

  • Introduction to Produce Safety for the wash/pack facility
  • Cleaning – the “how’s and why’s”
  • Sanitizing – “how’s and why’s”
  • Drying – “how’s and why’s”
  • Hygienic Design and Practice Considerations
    • Visible and Reachable Surfaces
    • Smooth and Cleanable Surfaces
    • No Collection Points
    • Compatible Materials
    • Preventing Contamination
    • Equipment
    • Buildings
    • Tools and Practices
  • Applications
    • Greens Spinners – Comparison using evaluation checklist
    • Using SOP’s for hard to clean equipment
    • Barrel Washer
    • Brush Washer
  • And much more!

The cost, including lunch, is $20 for Cornell Vegetable Program enrollees and $30 for non-enrollees. An online pre-registration form can be found at: https://cvp.cce.cornell.edu/event_preregistration.php?event=1084.

Quality standards for local broccoli

Excellent thesis work by Carol Jiayi Dong and Phil Coles was just published in the Journal of Food Distribution Research

Article title

The article, titled Produce Buyer Quality Requirements to Form an Eastern Broccoli Industry is available open access at JFDR.

The article show that wholesale buyers expect broccoli to look familiar. Local variants with slightly different color or flower-bud size were acceptable only to natural food reseller, not at standard supermarkets. The challenge for a new region is to meet standards that were developed for other production areas.

Carol is currently pursuing her PhD in ag economics at UC Davis, Phil is  a professor of practice in business at Lehigh University.

Webinar: Raising organic broccoli in the East

We invite interested eastern growers and distributors to participate.

Wednesday January 23, 12:00 – 1:00 pm EST

Introduction
Click here for the full recording. The hamburger menu on the video lets you move to specific sections of the webinar.

Eastern buyers are eager to source more Organic broccoli locally. Fortunately, broccoli is suited to Organic practices. Nevertheless, meeting that demand will require efficient production.

This webinar will cover management approaches for Organic production that help production efficiency. Prospective growers will come away with a better sense of how to achieve success, and current Organic broccoli growers are likely to pick up some useful ideas to increase their profitability.

Presenters

  • Jeanine Davis, Margaret Bloomquist and Richard Boylan, North Carolina State University, experts on organic production systems
  • Thomas Björkman, Cornell University. Vegetable physiologist
  • Bryan Brown, NYS IPM. Weed management specialist and expert on organic weed management
  • Jill Eccleston, Cornell University, Integrated control of emerging insect pests

Topics

  • Organic nutrition for a nitrogen-hungry crop
  • Weed management in high fertility and short season
  • Insect management amid many hungry pests
  • Varieties suitable for organic production in the East
  • The market for organic broccoli

Join the webinar by clicking this link: https://cornell.zoom.us/j/855304241 on a computer, tablet or smartphone. To test your Zoom connection in advance, please visit https://zoom.us/test. It may take a minute or so to install the small software.
To get the audio only on a telephone, call +1 646 876 9923 and enter meeting id 855304241

Sponsored by the Eastern Broccoli Project (a multi-institutional project funded by USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture, Specialty Crop Research Initiative).

Alternaria strikes in 2018, overwhelms Quadris

Alternaria was widespread in the East this year. Unrelenting rain after mid-August created conditions in the Northeast that were conducive to this normally secondary disease. More important, the strain going around was not controlled by the most commonly used fungicide.

Alternaria lesions on head are deep. Even one renders the head unmarketable.

 

Christy Hoepting conducted a fungicide trial to test both our current fungicide program and new materials. Azoxystrobin (Quadris) is widely used, and a 2014 survey in New York showed no resistance. (Cornell pathologists Meg McGrath and Chris Smart are checking for known and novel resistance in 2018 isolates.)

This year, Tim Coolong reported in August that a Quadris-resistant strain was showing up in Georgia. Christy’s trial showed Quadris failing to control in New York. The good news is that the Alternaria was susceptible to fluxapyroxad and pyraclostrobin, the active ingredients in Priaxor. Priaxor is already labeled for use in New York, except Long Island.

The hot and humid weather with heavy rainfall from remnants of hurricanes during August was the perfect storm for Alternaria leaf spot (ALS) to rage out of control in brassica crops across Western New York in 2018. Cornell Vegetable Program fresh market specialists received several complaints about a disease that caused unsightly lesions on both leaves and marketable portions of brassica plants. When ALS attacks the head of broccoli or cauliflower, it renders them unmarketable. Hoepting visited with a grower who was planning to cut broccoli production by one-third, because he had just lost over 85% of his most-recent 5-acre planting to ALS head rot, a loss of $7,500. She immediately set up an ad hoc small-plot replicated trial on his farm in hopes of finding a fungicide that could control this devastating disease.

By the time the broccoli was ready to harvest, differences among treatments in side-by-side plots were striking. In the untreated check, 98% of the heads were unmarketable due to severe ALS, while the best fungicide in the trial, Merivon (fluxapyroxad and pyraclostrobin) had only 5% unmarketable heads.  The fungicides that the grower had been using, Bravo and Quadris (azoxystrobin), resulted in 98% and 49% unmarketable heads, respectively. Commercially available fungicides Switch, Quadris Top and Endura had significantly lower unmarketable heads than Quadris with only 10 to 33%.

Priaxor can be applied at most 2 times sequentially and 3 times total. The only targeted fungicide that can be used with it in a program is Switch (cyprodinil and fludioxonil) because its active ingredients are in different chemical groups (FRAC groups 9 and 12) from those of Priaxor (7 and 11).

If the grower were to adopt a 4-week fungicide program with top-performing fungicides, he could expect to get at least 75% marketable heads. Compared to his Bravo/Quadris program, which only yielded 1470 pounds and net $1,323 per acre, the new program could increase both yield and net profit 5-fold by 5881 pounds and $5,562 per acre, despite a 5-fold increase in cost of fungicides from $44 to $223 per acre. After viewing the fungicide trial on his farm, the grower immediately adjusted his fungicide program to include the most effective fungicides in all of his remaining brassica plantings. He is planning to resume full broccoli production next year with the new fungicide program, which has potential to increase profit by $166,860 in his 30 acres of broccoli. Trial results will be shared with CVP growers over the winter, so all conventional growers can benefit from improved ALS control in their brassicas.

Alternaria leaf lesions with other diseases three weeks after one heavy rainfall event and regular showers afterwards

 

The Alternaria pattern can give false hope. There are lesions on older leaf, then clean younger leaves that grew after the big rain. However, the infection also affects the head.

For a 2014 survey showing all 47 isolates being susceptible to Quadris, see Kreis, Dillard and Smart. Plant Disease. http://dx.doi.org/10.1094/PDIS-03-16-0414-RE

 

Note added January 11: Today at the Southeast Vegetable Conference, Dr. Bhabesh Dutta of the University of Georgia at Tifton showed that the pathogen present in Georgia this year is a different (new) species of fungus that it is not controlled by azoxystrobin. Pathologists around the East are testing isolates from their regions to determine whether this species is the one that cause unusually high losses in the region.

This result is useful in that Dr. Dutta has already identified a fungicide program that should be effective in 2019. If the other azoxystrobin-resistant isolates turn out to be the new species, it mean that there has not been a change in the usual Alternaria.

Produce Safety Webinar for Broccoli Producers

Are you wondering what the implications of new food safety regulations are for broccoli production?  Join Eastern Broccoli Food Safety specialists Chris Callahan, Betsy Bihn, and their colleagues on Monday, May 14 at 2 p.m. EDT  for a webinar on “Produce Safety for Broccoli Producers”.

Topics will include:

  1.  An overview of produce safety
    1. Coverage thresholds and compliance dates
    2. The Food Safety Modernization Act and Produce Safety Rule
  2. Broccoli-specific produce safety considerations
  3. Overview and feedback on educational material development.

You can register for the webinar using the form below.  Registration is not mandatory, but it will help us with planning and make it easier for you to get a direct link to the webinar via email.  The form also has room for you to list specific questions that you would like to see addressed during the presentation.

The webinar is geared towards growers, but the information will also be useful to buyers, extension specialists, researchers, and others.  Registrants will be emailed instructions for joining the webinar by the day of the event.

(This event has passed.  You can view a recording of the webinar, and download the slides, from Chris Callahan’s blog page here http://blog.uvm.edu/cwcallah/2018/06/18/produce-safety-in-broccoli/ .)

Seepage irrigation

One fascinating thing about visiting Southwest Florida farms is seeing their distinctive seepage irrigation system. I had heard it described, but I didn’t really get it until I saw it in action.

Unique soils in Florida have allowed growers there to develop a an effective irrigation system that differs in many respects from what I have seen anywhere else. Sandy soils overlay a hardpan just below the maximum rooting zone. That situation allows lateral seepage of irrigation water over considerable distances with hardly any slope.

Main irrigation canals move water from water reserves in the abundant swampland to the fields. To irrigate a field, irrigation ditches are filled from those canals, then emptied when irrigation is done.

 

Irrigation water seeps sideways into the soil from the ditch. It reaches far enough that there are 12 beds between ditches. The water level is maintained precisely so that soil under the roots is wetted, but the roots are not drowned.

 

One of the significant advantages of this system is less disease. Because all the water stays underground,  it is rarer for the foliage to be wet and the humidity, while naturally high, is lower. Thus the conditions for fungal spores to germinate and for hyphae to grow are considerably less common.

A couple other unique features  make the system work. First, the land is very flat. Whole fields can be irrigated where the underground water table is maintained at an exact distance below the soil surface on the bed tops. In addition, field are interspersed with vast swamplands that serve as storage for irrigation water. Irrigation water can not only be drawn from these reservoirs, but it is also returned to them at the end of an irrigation cycle.

 

 

Broccoli potential in Southwest Florida

At the end of February, Project Director Thomas Björkman had a chance to visit Monica Ozores-Hampton’s trial site at the University of Florida’s Southwest Florida Research and Education Center and farmers in nearby Immokalee and Clewiston (between Lake Okeechobee and the Everglades).

The SWFREC has seven new faculty, which really adds energy. Like elsewhere in Florida, managing citrus greening is a big priority.

Monica Ozores-Hampton and her SWREC colleagues using infrared imaging to track crop growth by recording individual plants through the season.

The research station has recovered from Hurricane Maria last fall, with some new greenhouse facilities replacing ones lost. The fields at the station are set up to use the distinctive seepage irrigation system common in parts of Florida that have sandy soils with a hardpan. The crop in the Yield Trial is growing well and should produce good results for spring. The February days were 85°, so warmer spring weather will definitely test the adaptation of these hybrids.

Monica Ozores-Hampton’s yield trial at the UF Southwest Florida Research and Extension Center in Immokalee, Florida. The trial is on a sandy soil using a seepage irrigation system. This February day began at a balmy 70°F, which suited the students on spring break in nearby Ft. Myers just fine. But that night temperature is too high for broccoli reaching the most sensitive stage of development (and for winter-hardened Thomas Björkman, pictured). The grassy field edge runs along an irrigation ditch. In the morning, alligators like to come out of the ditch to sun themselves on the grass.

 

Vegetable farms in SW Florida are generally larger than elsewhere in the East. The smallest farm we visited raises a thousand acres of green beans and sweet corn. The land costs are moderate, and the sandy soil can be managed with appropriately scaled equipment. At this scale, vegetables reach large-scale buyers through the most prominent of eastern produce distributors.

The farms we visited all know very well how to raise broccoli efficiently. The bed system means that the plant populations are lower per gross acre than solid stands. Nevertheless, the yields have been good, pests are uncommon, and the labor has been available for harvest.

The main limitation has been access to markets. The growers noted some irony in being unable to interest south Florida buyers in local broccoli, but finding buyers in New York appreciated getting winter broccoli from closer by. A good relationship between buyers and sellers appears to allow many efficiencies that improve product quality and reduce costs.

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