Dec 23, 2016
Asparagus variety options grow beyond Millennium

At an Oceana Research Tour stop at the Michigan Asparagus Industry Research Farm in Hart, Michigan, John Bakker, executive director, Michigan Asparagus Advisory Board, said ongoing trials at the site continue to identify emerging asparagus varieties that could become more attractive for growers.

“With every cross that you make, you have to do a pre-screening first,” Bakker said. “If we think that they may have some potential, then we would like to get them. What’s really exciting now is we’re finally starting to see some varieties that we’ve been watching – some of them for as many as 16, 17 years now, are being released and coming out.”

He said Guelph Eclipse (UG-5), a new asparagus variety from University of Guelph/Fox Seeds, will be released this fall.

Bakker said Bejo Seeds may have one or two varieties from its program, including NJ978, released this year or next year.

“NJ1021 that I planted in 2000 – I love that thing – is now available,” Bakker said.

Another new variety, Sequoia, “is looking very promising, although there’s not a lot of years of data yet,” he said.

“One of the things we’re really starting focusing on now, obviously, is yield,” Bakker said. “If a variety doesn’t yield, then it’s not really important. We’re seeing and looking at a lot of varieties that are yielding quite well, right up there with (Guelph) Millennium.

“We would all obviously like asparagus that gets knee high and still has a nice, tight head. We’d all like asparagus that’s just the perfect diameter for the market that you happen to be going to. We’re starting to see that.”

Bakker said he spends three days a year conducting asparagus quality evaluations.

“It’s where we take varieties out of the field and take them out to look at things like uniformity, diameter, how tight is the head, and evaluate it. It’s a big, big process, but that gives us the next layer of information that we need.

“I’m super excited about what we’ve got,” Bakker said. “We know an awful lot about Millennium. We know we can put Millennium in ground that we’d never dream of putting the Jersey varieties on. We’re learning that Millennium responds to irrigation better that some of the Jersey varieties. We’re getting to a point now where (growers) are going to have a lot of choices.

“You can go with the old standby, Millennium – you can’t go wrong with that one. But if you want to try some new things, take a little bit of a chance, help us learn a little bit more as we get more of these new varieties out into different areas close to the lakeshore, out east, low ground, sandy ground – we’re going to learn more about these things. The potential is there for some really new, exciting things coming along the line.”

— Gary Pullano, associate editor

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