Participatory Screening of Broccoli Varieties for Organic Systems in Western North Carolina

Identifying appropriate varieties for organic production in the mountains of Western North Carolina is considered a research priority by local growers. Three hundred farmers, extension agents, researchers, chefs, marketers, and community members were interviewed and surveyed in 2010 to determine the organic research needs of the region. The unique climate and geography of the southern Appalachian region (compared to the rest of North Carolina) with varying elevation and temperatures, wet mornings that increase disease pressure, and sloping and river bottom soils, lead to both unique farming systems (very small diverse farms) and production challenges. Many growers told us they wanted to know what varieties are best adapted to this region and most appropriate for their markets. The majority of those surveyed said that variety trials are an important research need for the region, and disease resistant varieties are important tools to solve growers’ self-identified top production challenge of disease management. A small preliminary organic broccoli variety and planting date trial conducted in 2010 attracted a lot of interest from farmers. Several growers told us they want to see more organic broccoli variety trials and want to grow the trials on their own farms, too. Participatory methods used to screen these varieties will ensure that farmers are involved in planning and implementing this project as well as disseminating the results. 

Identifying regionally appropriate varieties better adapted to organic production with traits most desirable to farmers for their markets will improve broccoli production and quality, leading to increased farm profitability; will contribute to a cropping system more resilient to stress; and will empower farmers in the research process, improving the quality of organic research and its impact for the future. 

A final project report will be posted upon completion.