The Northern New York Agricultural Development Program has awarded a grant for trials of early spring high tunnel miniature cabbages and sprouting broccoli crops. These cold-tolerant brassica (cruciferous) 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 in New York State's northern region. The research team, which includes vegetable production specialists with Cornell Cooperative Extension and the Willsboro Research Farm, harvested its first mini versions of these vegetables in May 2021.
The opportunity to produce miniature varieties of broccoli and cabbages that are quick-growing and are able to grow in unheated high tunnels will help northern New York growers respond to the unprecedented surge in demand for local foods spurred by the COVID-19 pandemic.
"In 2020, wholesale buyers sought out more sprouting broccoli than the market could supply through the northern New York food hubs," said Elisabeth Hodgdon, Ph.D., a regional vegetable specialist with Cornell Cooperative Extension's Eastern New York Commercial Horticulture Program.
This miniature cabbage was harvested on May 23, 2021. Photo: Elisabeth Hodgdon.
Hodgdon is 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.
Lindsey Pashow, Cornell Cooperative Extension regional agricultural business specialist is working with regional growers on ways to package, price, and prepare these crops for wholesale and retail markets. Pashow and Hodgdon are also helping growers to develop food safety plans and implement practices to meet Food Safety Modernization Act and Good Agricultural Practices requirements.
This "Montebello" green variety of sprouting broccoli was harvested on May 23, 2021. Photo: Elisabeth Hodgdon.
An additional aspect of this Northern New York Agricultural Development Program-funded regional vegetable production research project is focused on how to plant cold-tolerant brassica species as field cover crops to enhance soil health and to help suppress pests, weeds, and crop diseases.
Notices about in-person and virtual 2021 Brassica Workshops for growers, and the final project results report, will be posted on the Northern New York Agricultural Development Program website.
Funding for the Northern New York Agricultural Development Program is supported by the New York State Legislature and administered by the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets.