All-year-round broccoli

Wednesday, 01 March, 2017

A line of fast-growing sprouting broccoli that can be harvested in 8–10 weeks is being developed by scientists at the John Innes Centre (JIC). With the potential to deliver two field-based crops per season or 4–5 crops if grown in protected conditions, the new line will help with continuity of supply, as growers won’t be reliant on seasonal weather conditions any more.

Many crops, including broccoli, rely on a period of cold before they can flower and so are very susceptible to fluctuating winter temperatures. Recent adverse weather in Murcia, Spain, led to a shortage of courgettes, iceberg lettuce and broccoli. The team at JIC have been working on ways to increase crop productivity and reduce our vulnerability to fluctuations in climate.

In addition to having a short growing period, there is the opportunity to move production into urban farms enabling reductions in the carbon footprint of food production and supply.

The team identified the new line as part of JIC’s GRO Institute Strategic Programme. They were surprised to see how rapidly it grew from seed to harvestable sprouting broccoli spears. Detailed analysis identified the gene responsible for this trait. They are now testing further generations under conventional glasshouse and controlled environment conditions. This line has been developed using conventional breeding techniques.

In order for this experimental line to move towards commercialisation, the next steps involve flavour and nutritional analysis and performance testing under true protected and field commercial growing conditions.

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