Our research team recently joined Washington State University (WSU) researchers for a Carrot Improvement for Organic Agriculture (CIOA) field harvest and evaluation. CIOA is a long-term breeding project that is helping farmers and plant breeders find existing carrot varieties – and develop new varieties – that are well suited for organic farming systems. The project prioritizes some important traits, like improved disease and nematode resistance, better weed competitiveness, higher nutritional content, and superior flavor.
OSA and WSU field harvest crews worked in the hot summer sun on August 12th to evaluate variety trial plots. These plots were planted amid sweeping acreage of commercial carrot production grown under both organic and conventional conditions at the expansive Mercer Canyons Ranch in Prosser, WA. Carrots were assessed for top height and vigor; foliar diseases (led by WSU’s Dr. Lindsey du Toit); and other market traits, such as color, uniformity, and root shape. Harvested carrots were also packaged and sent to CIOA project lead Dr. Phil Simon at the University of Wisconsin – Madison for nutritional analysis. We are also assessing the performance of carrot varieties in organic versus conventional farming systems using replicated variety trials on partner farms in three other states: California, Indiana, and Wisconsin.
The research team then tasted the harvest, finding that in addition to their unique coloration the carrots were crisp and delivered sweet flavor.
The data gathered through this week’s harvest is available on the CIOA website. This website also contains an online gallery of carrots in this project, including information for organic carrot growers about the performance and commercial availability of varieties. Growers will also find tutorials and other resources for how to produce organic carrots for seed.