Researchers eye cold-tolerant crops to fill gap between growing seasons


This “Montebello” green variety of sprouting broccoli was harvested on May 23, 2021 at the Northern New York Agricultural Development Program vegetable research trials at the Willsboro Research Farm, Willsboro, N.Y. Photo: Elisabeth Hodgdon

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WILLSBORO, N.Y. (WWTI) — A program based in the North Country is researching different variations of cabbage and broccoli. The Northern New York Agricultural Development Program has awarded a grant for trials of two cold-tolerant brassica crops: early spring high tunnel miniature cabbage and sprouting broccoli.

Initial trials of these crops were first lead by vegetable production specialists with Cornell Cooperative Extension and the Willsboro Research Farm. The research team harvested its first mini versions of these vegetables in May.

Researchers claimed that these crops have the potential to fill the gap that occurs between when winter storage crops are sold out and before spring field crop harvest begins, and help growers respond to unprecedented demand surges for local foods. This is specific for New York State’s northern regions.

“In 2020, wholesale buyers sought out more sprouting broccoli than the market could supply through the northern New York food hubs,” said Dr. Elisabeth Hodgdon, regional vegetable specialist. Elisabeth Hodgdon.

Hodgdon is currently overseeing the trials of fall-overwintered and early spring-planted high tunnel-grown varieties of sprouting broccoli and mini-cabbages for harvest in April and May. The research will collect data on planting dates, crop establishment, growth patterns, and yield.

According to the program, sprouting broccoli is common to Europe where growers harvest small heads of the broccoli in various colors. Miniature cabbages offer a green crop to sell well before field cabbage is ready for market sales.

The final report on the project’s results and notices about in-person and virtual brassica workshops for growers will be posted on the Northern New York Agricultural Development Program website.

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