Page Banner

United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Research Project: Carrot Improvement for Organic Agriculture with Added Grower and Consumer Value

Location: Vegetable Crops Research Unit

2013 Annual Report


1a.Objectives (from AD-416):
Develop carrot breeding stocks for production in organic agriculture systems with improved nutritional value, trial carrots in diverse growing locations, and release germplasm to the seed industry.


1b.Approach (from AD-416):
a) Select for and produce carrot seed with elite nematode and alternaria resistance and weed tolerance for large-scale testing and deployment to the seed and crop production industries.

b) Select for improved flavor and nutritional value in elite germplasm.

c) Provide carrot breeding tools for seed companies, production information for growers, and flavor, nutritional quality and environmental impact information for consumers about nematode resistant carrot germplasm.

d) Evaluate diverse carrots with disease and pest resistance for rapid seedling and top growth.

e) Evaluate nutrient-rich, disease and pest resistant carrots in infested fields. f) Evaluate nutrient-rich, disease and pest resistant carrots with improved weed tolerance in grower fields.


3.Progress Report:

This project was renumbered from 3655-21000-048-37R to 3655-21000-062-11R. Research activities for the Carrot Improvement for Organic Agriculture (CIOA) project focused on developing trial protocols, identifying cooperators, sourcing appropriate trial germplasm, and conducting field trials. The trial protocols and field evaluation tools were developed by the project team to ensure consistent trial methods across sites that capture crucial crop traits identified as important for participating growers in diverse carrot growing regions across the country. Evaluation criteria include evaluation of top growth, root quality, pest and disease impacts, and yield. Yield data was collected as number of roots per plot and total weight of roots per plot. Top growth was evaluated as low, high and average top height and width by plot. Additional criteria will be added including, detailed root quality and flavor evaluations, seedling vigor and early plant growth in subsequent years as breeding lines are further developed. Evaluation criteria also incorporate feedback from participating farmers and growers involved in the Organic Agriculture Research and Extension Initiative (OREI)-funded project and the Northern Organic Vegetable Improvement Collaborative (NOVIC). Samples from each plot were shipped to Wisconsin for analysis of nutritional qualities including carotenoid and anthocyanin pigments and flavor. Soil samples were also collected from each trial site for analysis of soil nutrients and microflora.

Comparative trials were established on organic and conventional participating farms in Washington, Wisconsin, Indiana, and California, utilizing a complete randomized block design with three replications. The organic and conventional sites were selected within each region with a goal of minimizing differences in soil type and growing climate. Conventional and organic trials were planted on the same date in each state at seasonally appropriate planting times that coincide with regional production windows. The first trial harvest and evaluation was conducted in Washington on August 20, 2012, the second in Wisconsin on September 4, 2012 and the third in Indiana on September 18, 2012. Evaluation of disease incidence in both the organic and conventional trials was conducted. All trials were successfully established, however, dry conditions in Wisconsin required two plantings to achieve a full stand.

To evaluate root knot nematode resistance, select material was additionally planted in a trial on known nematode infested ground at the University of California South Coast Research & Extension Center in California. This trial was evaluated November 15, 2012 following standard protocols for evaluation of incidence of nematode root infestation. Alternaria leaf blight resistance of select germplasm was evaluated in 2012 in a naturally infested trial location on the University of Wisconsin Hancock Research Station, using standard rating protocols.

Extension activities included creating project promotion and educational materials, coordinating outreach and evaluation activities, and delivering educational events. The project communications team created standardized forms for delivering outreach events and tracking event participation and evaluation. Forms included an event signup sheet to track participation, an event evaluation form to report on impacts and improve future events, and an online tool for coordinating and tracking outreach activities related to the project. A website and printed brochure were also created to educate the public about the project and related resources. Each project collaborator received printed copies of the brochure to disseminate at outreach events.

As part of education activities, undergraduates, graduate students and postdoctorates are being trained in vegetable breeding, crop and seed production, disease protection and diagnosis, and soil science with a focus on organic systems as they participate in research projects critical to the Carrot Improvement for Organic Agriculture (CIOA) Project achieving its research goals.

Collaborators will host public farmer field days in conjunction with each trial. Field days will coincide with timing of trial evaluations. Participants will learn about the project goals and preliminary trial results. Farmer participants will also be invited to participate in the evaluations and provide input on project direction. The project team is developing a standardized evaluation form for farmer participation in trial evaluations and seed production, and a survey for farmer feedback on the project. These tools will be utilized in participatory evaluations and outreach activities in year two.

Collaborators are providing education on organic plant breeding, conducting organic on-farm variety trials, and organic carrot production at various educational events, both field based and at conferences. In addition, the project team plans to report on results to the scientific community in later years of the project.

This project includes development of the eOrganic seed and breeding community of practice. A co-PD participated in a four-day eOrganic strategy development meeting with other eOrganic collaborators.

A project logo and acronym for public communications was created. The project name for public communications is – Carrot Improvement for Organic Agriculture (CIOA). The project team created a workspace on eOrganic for project coordination and development of outreach materials including a webinar on plant breeding for human nutrition. Through eOrganic a public website was created for educational and project promotion purposes. The CIOA public website is: http://eorganic.info/carrotimprovement.

The CIOA website includes information about the project, the project collaborators, resources related to carrot breeding and seed production, notifications of events, relevant news, and a link to the eOrganic variety trial database.

This project has impacts for organic agriculture by.
1)the delivery of novel germplasm well suited to enhance organic production systems and markets,.
2)the development of organic produce with superior flavor and nutritional quality, and.
3)the improved understanding of the genetic by environment interactions in organic versus conventional systems as they relate to cultivar performance and inform growers about cultivar and soil factors that impact economic returns and reduce environmental impacts. The model for identifying key traits for organic systems, and subsequently breeding for those traits have been established. The project reached approximately 60 farmers with education on organic breeding and variety trials with plans in place to reach an additional 100 growers. This project provides crucial support for public breeding programs to advance the development of organic agriculture. In addition to the important research impacts and new germplasm this project is creating a model for farmer-researcher participation in breeding, seed production and evaluation programs for organic systems.

This research relates to Objective 1, Determine the genetic basis of and initiate selection for carrot, onion, cucumber, and melon quality attributes influencing human nutrition and health, disease resistances, and yield and quality components, and stress tolerance in cucurbits, and perform field performance and quality trials and Objective 2, Utilize current biotechnology to discover and evaluate genetic variation and to map agriculturally important traits in Allium, Cucurbit, and Daucus germplasm, and to develop genetic and breeding stocks, by evaluating germplasm, and by developing new selections of carrots with improved productivity, flavor, disease and pest resistance, and nutritional value and useful genetic markers for crop improvement.


Last Modified: 10/25/2014
Footer Content Back to Top of Page