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Eastern Broccoli Project


Project Director
Thomas Björkman

Phone: 315-787-2218
Email: tnb1@cornell.edu

Department of Horticulture
Cornell University

Björkman broccoli research page 


Goals 2016 – 2021

 

Broccoli is a major specialty crop worth nearly a billion dollars a year. Despite high and growing consumption in the Eastern U.S., very little broccoli has been produced in this region.  The goal of the Eastern Broccoli Project is to correct that disparity by creating a reliable, high quality, year-round supply of Eastern-grown broccoli that is welcomed in East Coast markets.

The Eastern Broccoli Project began in 2010, at a time when high transportation costs, interest in locally grown food, and sustainability concerns had begun to create demand for eastern-grown broccoli.  With input from industry collaborators, the project research team identified seven objectives that would overcome barriers to increasing broccoli production in the eastern U.S.

Because of progress made in the first five years, we’ve reorganized and streamlined project objectives for 2016 through 2021 to focus on:

  1. Bringing to market seed of new broccoli cultivars, developed in the first five years of this project, that are much better adapted to the eastern U.S.
  2. Introducing new breeding tools and create germplasm even better than today’s best to produce broccoli hybrids with the adaptation, quality, and productivity to keep the crop competitive into the future.
  3. Developing a large grower base that can reliably supply quality eastern-grown broccoli to eastern buyers and consumers. Project extension staff will provide production, postharvest, and food safety support.
  4. Enhancing distribution channels for regional fresh produce and overcoming barriers to increased distribution of eastern-grown broccoli that have not resolved in the private sector.

A strong broccoli industry in the eastern US will result in a regional supply of a popular, healthy food for consumers, lower transportation costs for retailers, and a market for a high-value specialty crop for farmers. 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.

 

Goals 2010–2015

We propose to provide a complete solution to the problem by addressing each of the seven barriers to success:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. Release varieties that extend the growing window and increase quality and yield.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.