Broccoli has recently become a major specialty crop worth nearly a billion dollars a year. Despite high and growing consumption in the Eastern U.S., very little is produced in this region.
Several recent developments create an opportunity to correct that disparity. High transportation costs, interest in locally grown food, and sustainability assessment have all created demand for Eastern broccoli production. Moreover, public broccoli breeders have recently succeeded in developing locally adapted germplasm to eliminate the obstacle that current broccoli varieties do not produce a consistently marketable product in the East.
We propose to provide a complete solution to the problem by addressing each of the seven barriers to success:
- Using germplasm from the public and private sectors, breed for quality improvements (taste, color, ease of harvest, disease resistance) desired by East Coast growers and consumers.
- Establish regional testing sites to screen performance of new material under a range of East Coast conditions. Identify breeding lines with potential for further development and elite lines for release.
- Release varieties that extend the growing window and increase quality and yield.
- Produce sufficient hybrid seed of new commercial varieties. The process includes identifying hybrid-specific techniques to obtain high seed production as well as contracting seed production to match expected demand.
- Develop a reliable grower base to supply markets. Provide extension guidance to new broccoli growers. Revise and expand broccoli production recommendations. Develop grower networks in different regions that can supply a whole delivery window, and a set of grower networks that can supply year-round.
- Establish a distribution system. Identify and develop infrastructure for packing, cooling, and shipping. Connect distributors with supplier networks and wholesale customers, building on existing networks. Begin by testing with small volumes from a few source regions, ultimately supplying all year.
- Foster and evaluate retail acceptance. Assess eastern consumer acceptance of appearance variation and willingness to pay for locally grown attribute. Test market to establish relationships with suppliers and build confidence in ability to supply promised volume and quality.
Our vision is to create a regional food network for an increasingly important and nutritious vegetable that may serve as a model network for other specialty crops. Our assembled team of breeders, production specialists, and market developers have the breeding stocks and the expertise to develop an Eastern broccoli industry with an annual volume of $100 million in 5-10 years.