A key component of this project is the establishment of regional testing sites that allow coordinated trials of broccoli breeding stock and new hybrids at several locations in the eastern United States, including
- Charleston, South Carolina
- Carroll Country, Virginia
- Waynesville, North Carolina
- Geneva, New York
- Monmouth, Maine
Eventually, trial sites will also serve as demonstration plots for extension programs.
Trials run every year of this project at all locations, with the goal of finding the best broccoli varieties for eastern growing regions. New material enters the system via Phase I trials that screen many entries to find those with some degree of adaptation to eastern growing regions. In the following year, the best performing cultivars from Phase I are entered into Phase II trials for more comprehensive evaluation. The most promising varieties from Phase II trials are used the next year in on-farm strip trials. New entries for Phase I trials are added each year, allowing the testing cycle to continue throughout this effort. A few standard commercial broccoli varieties are serving as checks and will be included in all trials for the duration of the project.
2011 Update: The first Phase I trials were conducted in 2011 at all five testing sites. Most of the thirty-two entries were varieties offered for sale in the eastern U.S., but a few were advanced experimental hybrids that were candidates for commercial release. The goal of this commercial hybrid screening was to determine which currently available varieties performed best at each location and across all locations. Each testing site hosted two trial plantings, one when conditions were optimal for broccoli production and a second when conditions were more stressful.
An encouraging finding of 2011 regional trials was that, under both stressful and optimal growing conditions, some of the new hybrid candidates performed as well as or better than the best available commercial varieties. The high quality that is already evident in this new material gives us confidence that targeted breeding efforts will result in commercially available broccoli hybrids with superior performance in eastern regions.
Results from 2011 trials were also used by the project’s extension team to update regional variety recommendations and to choose hybrids for 2012 on-farm trials with growers.
2012 Update: All five trial testing locations are once again hosting Phase I trials, and four of the locations are also conducting Phase II trials for the first time. Our Phase I trials this year include mostly experimental hybrid entries from both commercial and public broccoli breeding programs, as well as a few new commercial varieties and the standard checks. Each site will again host two plantings of Phase I entries. Best performing broccoli varieties from 2011 are receiving more intensive evaluation in the five Phase II plantings conducted at each of four test sites.