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Establishing a Broccoli Industry in the Eastern United States

Bjorkman, Thomas
New York Agricultural Experiment Station
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  1. Develop germplasm suited to eastern conditions; Generate 50 to 85 hybrids each year from public breeding programs to be tested in Phase I trials of
  2. Establish regional testing sites to identify the most promising current and new hybrids for Eastern growers. Through a three-phase testing program, identify germplasm for release as commercial varieties that will perform well over a 12-month Eastern production season and have good nutritional qualities.
  3. Produce sufficient seed supplies for these new hybrids for commercial production; develop methods for efficient production of selected hybrids, produce enough seed to meet project broccoli production goals.
  4. Release and market new hybrid varieties that allow the production of quality broccoli with expanded regional harvest windows. The goal is at least one variety per seed company.
  5. Identify, train, and support growers to create regional production networks capable of supplying broccoli year-round in the East;
  6. Establish a supply chain and retail acceptance of Eastern broccoli. Distributors develop relationships with grower networks and with customers throughout the east coast. Analyze the distribution chain and customer acceptance of eastern product.
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Non-Technical Summary: Broccoli has recently become a major specialty crop worth nearly a billion dollars a year. Its growing popularity improves the health and nutrition in American diets. Despite high consumption in the East, little is produced in this region. Both high transportation costs and interest in locally-grown food has created demand for eastern broccoli production. Unfortunately, current cultivars do not produce a consistently marketable product under eastern growing conditions; however, public breeders have recently succeeded in developing locally-adapted material. Our vision is to create a regional food network for this increasingly important and nutritious vegetable that may serve as a model network for other specialty crops. By coordinating the escalation of broccoli production in the East, this project will hasten the appearance of a year-round, consistent supply that is necessary for sustainability of the industry. Our assembled team of breeders, production specialists, and market developers have the breeding stocks, expertise and market presence to develop a substantial eastern broccoli industry in 5-10 years. Our team includes leading industry partners throughout. We will provide a complete solution to the problem by addressing each of the six barriers to success: improved germplasm, regional testing of experimental varieties, cultivar release, production of hybrid seed, extension to new broccoli growers, establishment of a distribution-retail system. This project will benefit society by raising the availability of local food, providing economic development in depressed areas on the East Coast, reducing energy consumption for transportation and irrigation water-use for crop production.

Approach: Objective 1, Germplasm development. Public and private breeders will develop broccoli germplasm targeted to East Coast growing regions. The three public programs, in Charleston, SC (USDA-ARS), Geneva, NY (Cornell), and Corvallis, Oregon (Oregon State Univ.), will use their existing germplasm proven to tolerate eastern conditions. The three private breeders, Bejo, Syngenta and Seminis,will also breed for this project based on their germplasm and any licenced from the public programs. Objective 2, Regional Testing. Phase I trials will screen 50 to 85 hybrid entries at two planting times at each of four sites. Hybrids generated in Obj. 1 will be incorporated as they become available to comprise a majority of the entries. Phase II trials will consist of 20 of the best entries from Phase I, sown at five planting dates during the target season in each of four regional sites, with four replications of 10 plants. Quality and performance will be evaluated, including health attributes from glucosinolates, antioxidants, and minerals. In Phase III trials, growers will raise and evaluate three new hybrids targeted to their production region in anticipation of recommendation for release and use in later objectives. Objective 3, Seed production. Seed companies will develop proprietary hybrid-seed production methods for their own varieties. Objective 4, Variety release. Promising hybrids will be named and released, with the associated licensing and marketing agreements put in place. Objective 5, Extension. Project staff will oversee the development of five eastern growing regions (Northern Maine, Western New York, Appalachian Virginia and North Carolina, South Carolina/Georgia, and Northern Florida) that together can produce a year-round supply of fresh broccoli. Existing pockets of broccoli production will be the nucleus of the networks. First, regional grower networks will be organized. Existing production guidelines will be updated and customized for the target regions, updated with the new variety information. Then extension programming focused specifically on broccoli will educate growers about production practices and to qualify for GAP food safety certification. Initial growers will test produce small acreage of the most promising varieties identified in Obj. 2. Then they will produce increasing acreage in subsequent years, with additional growers recruited and trained as required. This objective will produce enough product for Obj. 6. Objective 6, distribution and marketing. Develop crop budgets to identify efficiencies and competitive advantages that will allow eastern broccoli to be profitable in the current marketplace. Identify cost-effective distribution structures to bring the new product from the farm gate to the retail store, and test these with current distribution partners. Identify product attributes driving purchase decisions of supermarket produce buyers and end consumers, including local, carbon footprint and appearance. Test marketing will involve initial small volume production from two regions to one supermarket chain, small volume year-round production, then medium-volume year-round production distributed to multiple buyers.

Funding Source
Nat'l. Inst. of Food and Agriculture
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Natural Toxins
Viruses and Prions
Bacterial Pathogens
Chemical Contaminants
Food Defense and Integrity