Organic vegetable farmers report that variety selection is a high research priority to ensure their success. Our 2015 participatory organic broccoli variety trials built on the project we started in 2012. Replicated field studies were completed in the organic unit on a research station in 2012 and 2013 successfully involving farmers in variety selection and evaluation throughout. In 2014 and 2015 we selected the six top performing varieties from the previous studies and evaluated them on the research station and on organic farms in western North Carolina. Participatory approaches used to screen these varieties involved farmers in project planning, implementation, and evaluation. Facilitating a whole systems approach for organic research projects was also focused on.
Based on the results from the 2012-2015 studies, for organic summer broccoli production in western North Carolina, the best performing crown cut varieties for yield, quality, disease resistance, and insect tolerance are Bay Meadows, Packman, Green Magic, and Umpqua. Additional varieties identified or bred through the complimentary multi-state, federally funded Eastern Broccoli Project for heat resistance are flagged as appropriate for WNC organic broccoli growers as well.
A field day and harvest workshops brought western North Carolina organic broccoli stakeholders together to evaluate the varieties in the 2015 trials on the research station and on-farm trial locations. Outreach of the results and potential impacts of these studies were made through a winter broccoli meeting and presentations by researchers and experienced broccoli growers at conferences and meetings in the region.