From the Field: Breeding Carrots for Organic Agriculture

Carrots_2014_1Earlier this spring, OSA’s research team planted ‘Spring Market’ carrots at Midori Farm, one of several farms partnering with us on breeding work here on the Olympic Peninsula. The carrots were planted for seed production and will eventually be used in our Carrot Improvement for Organic Agriculture project, a participatory plant breeding effort to develop high-quality carrots that perform well on organic farms.

‘Spring Market’ carrots are a traditional overwintered carrot for spring harvest from the Pukekohe region on the northern island of New Zealand. This region is particularly well known for onion and carrot production. OSA uses this variety as a parent in our breeding work for its exceptionally strong tops that don’t die off during the winter, allowing the root to be pulled from the ground in spring. We also use this variety because of its ability to remain edible for a much longer length of time through the spring compared to other carrot varieties. ‘Spring Market’ produces large roots with well-rounded carrot flavor and little secondary root growth. This variety was developed as an overwintering type, so its flavor is at its best after an extended period of cold storage or overwintering in the ground.

Seed from this planting will be harvested in late August or early September. Stay tuned for more photos from the field. And if you’re interested in learning how to conduct organic carrot breeding and seed production on your farm, check out these two OSA manuals: How to Breed Carrots for Organic Agriculture and The Principles and Practices of Organic Carrot Seed Production in the Pacific Northwest.

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