Increasingly more popular,
partially due to its health attributes, broccoli ranks among the top five
vegetable crops produced in the United States in terms of both acreage and
value. California produces about 90 percent, much of it in the coastal
Breeders strive for high domes on elongated stems, which facilitate both mechanical and manual
harvesting. Ideal heads are tight and dome-shaped. Segmented heads appeal
to the bunching market, and small beads please processors. Dark green or
blue-green color appears healthier to consumers. Both processors and fresh
market produce dealers prefer mild, fairly
sweet flavor. Of course, growers favor disease
resistance, particularly to downy mildew.
Broccoli generally grows best with moderate day
temperatures and cool nights. Consequently, much of the production occurs in spring and fall. Several current breeding
programs promise more versatility.
Oregon State’s vegetable breeding program, led
by Professor Jim Myers, focuses on breeding for disease and insect
resistance and for improving nutritional quality. In broccoli hybrids, his
work includes developing exserted heads for easier harvest and enhanced
nutritive value. His selection efforts in organic systems have been
reducing the variability in open-pollinated varieties. In addition, his
trials have shown increasing insect resistance and high-temperature
The researchers at the Agricultural Research Service (ARS) at the U.S. Department
of Agriculture have noticed that broccoli varieties differ in their
potential anti-carcinogenic activity.
Dr. Mark Farnham of the ARS U.S. Vegetable Laboratory (USVL) in Charleston,
S.C., and colleagues at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Md., have
found that concentrations in broccoli of glucoraphanin—a compound
associated with the vegetable’s cancer-inhibiting abilities—is
influenced more by genetics than by environment.
Farnham reports that it is possible to classify the anti-cancer potential of different varieties according to how their glucoraphanin spurs
detoxifying enzyme activity in mammalian cells. USVL has produced
The USVL breeding program has also been selecting the
breeding lines for adaptation to summer
conditions in the Southeast—hot days and
hot nights. This contrasts with many western broccoli lines, which perform
well under hot days and cool nights.
R & D Ag, Inc. in Gilroy, Calif., received a
patent for a new heat-tolerant broccoli. In September, Syngenta
finalized an agreement with R & D Ag to
support the development of heat-tolerant broccoli varieties.
Syngenta indicated that these new varieties should
allow the expansion of broccoli acreage, increasing options for growers.
Syngenta anticipates the first sales of these new heat-tolerant varieties
in May 2011.
The following new and relatively new varieties were
made available to us by press time. Broccolini, broccoflower, broccoli raab
and seeds developed for sprouting will appear in a later issue.
Bejo Seeds’ Batavia demonstrates good
performance in cold weather for very early spring production and late fall.
Maturing in 70 days, its dome-shaped heads with medium beads are ideal
for the crown-cut market.
Late-maturing at 90 days and very uniform, Beaumont features dome-shaped heads on thin stems.
This Bejo Seeds variety is good for the bunching market.
Early-maturing Castle Dome (PS 1536) has excellent
holding ability. This versatile hybrid offers heat tolerance as well as
cold vigor. The compact, open plant produces uniform heads that are deep
and domed with tight, small beads. This Seminis variety has resistance to
hollow stem and brown bead. It is suitable for crown-cut packs, bunching or
Also by Seminis, Contributor (PX 05121366) is a mid-maturing variety that has demonstrated
adaptability for the warm season. Heads have a high dome with a medium-fine
bead size and a shiny blue-green color. It shows increased tolerance to
hollow stem. In California, Contributor has performed well for spring
harvest in the San Joaquin Valley and in the warmer summer slots in the
Santa Maria area.
Sakata’s Emerald Isle (SBC 8410) is a
mid-maturing-type broccoli with a short branching habit, smooth dome shape
and medium-small beads. It shows excellent uniformity and yield per acre.
An excellent performer, Expo (SBC 3520) by Sakata
excels for both crown-cut and processing. A late-maturing variety, Expo has
a tight, heavy dome, short bract and small, uniform, green beads. It
performs well in conditions from warm to cool, overwinter and low light.
Seminis’ vigorous hybrid, Heritage, produces
uniform crowns suitable for domestic fresh market or export use, and is
versatile enough for bunching or florets. Its smooth, high-domed heads
feature tightlybeaded dark green florets. With cool-season vigor, it
shows intermediate resistance to downy mildew
and has demonstrated outstanding holding
Late-maturing Imperial (SBC 2519) performs best during
long day conditions with moderate heat. This Sakata variety has a tight
dome with small dark green beads. Imperial can be used for bunching,
crown-cut or processing. It shows excellent postharvest shelf life.
For cool-season production, Ironman’s heads are
deep, domed and firm. This Seminis hybrid variety suits both fresh market
and processing. It has relative tolerance to hollow stem and cat-eye. Its
uniform plant and narrow petioles render Ironman easy to work, harvest and
Rijk Zwaan’s Tahoe RZ has high yield potential. It performs best under cool to warm conditions
when mildew is not a problem. Drip or furrow irrigation produces the best
heads. Its smooth, dense, high dome-shaped heads excel for both crowns and
florets. A dark green, its small to medium beads are uniform.
The author is a writer-researcher specializing in
agriculture. She currently resides in central Pennsylvania.