News Release

New East Coast-specific broccoli variety shows promise

Business Announcement

Cornell University

ITHACA, NY – The Cornell University-led Eastern Broccoli Project, which built a broccoli industry on the East Coast worth an estimated $120 million over the last 13 years, has produced a promising new broccoli variety in partnership with Bejo Seeds, a Geneva, New York-based seed company.

The new broccoli variety, now undergoing commercial trials, is believed to produce good, high-quality yields – even under the stress of hot East Coast summers.

“There are many forces at work that underscore the need for East Coast-specific broccoli varieties,” said Thomas Björkman, professor of horticulture at Cornell AgriTech and director of the Eastern Broccoli Project. “As a result of climate change, West Coast growers are faced with water shortages and rising temperatures, which can cause the head of broccoli to become distorted and unmarketable. Diversifying the production area is important for maintaining food security.”

Improving broccoli’s adaptation to warm night temperatures in East Coast summers was among Björkman’s priorities in the project. To succeed on the East Coast – where the rising consumption and value of broccoli along with overall consumer interest for locally grown food continues to spark growers’ interest – broccoli needed to be developed for East Coast conditions.

Björkman enlisted the help of Phillip Griffiths, associate professor of horticulture at Cornell AgriTech, to develop a breeding strategy. Because of the complexity of genes that would be needed to produce a successful East Coast variety, Griffiths and Björkman teamed up with Bejo Seeds. To further expand access to advanced broccoli genetic material, Griffiths also worked with Mark Farnham, research leader at the United States Department of Agriculture Vegetable Laboratory in Charleston, South Carolina.

The partnership has led to a broccoli variety that is a combination of environmental resistance traits and quality. Bejo, Griffiths and Björkman are relying on growers to help maximize commercial trial results this year. Growers are currently able to trial the variety in their own fields by calling Bejo for seeds.

The variety will receive a commercial status and a fitting name once adaptability and commercial fit are confirmed.

For additional information, see this Cornell Chronicle story.


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