Vicky BoydNearly year-round broccoli production along the East Coast could become a reality in the near future, thanks to new varieties and hybrids that have performed well in field trials the past two years.
The goal to develop an East Coast broccoli industry is being led by Thomas Bjorkman, an assistant horticulture professor at Cornell University, and is funded by a $3.2 million U.S. Department of Agriculture grant, according to a news release.
Participating companies are chipping in $1.7 million in matching funds. The nation's nearly $1 billion broccoli market is dominated by California and Mexican production, which account for about 90 percent of broccoli sold in the East.
Attempts to grow varieties in the East that were designed for the West have failed because they didn't tolerate the hot, humid summers well.
Earlier research has forecast a $100 million potential market for Eastern-produced broccoli.
Newer genetics have allowed breeders to develop varieties that don't yield misshapen heads when temperatures climb.
During the past two summers, dozens of new varieties and hybrids were put to the test in five sites in western New York, Virginia, South Carolina, North Carolina and southern Maine.
Several outperformed current commercial varieties developed for the East.
For Eastern production to become a reality, a distribution network would have to be established.
Miguel Gomez, an assistant economics professor, acknowledged that the cost of producing broccoli in the East would be greater than in the West.
But that less expensive transporation costs would more than offset that.