Apr 15, 2011
New asparagus seed coming into production

According to a report given at the 2011 Oceana Asparagus Day in Hart, Mich., in March, there are going to be some changes in seed supply for the coming years.

The major suppliers of asparagus seed are the University of Guelph in Canada, Rutgers University, Walker Brothers and Vilmorin. One of the Guelph varieties, Guelph Millennium, is in high demand, said John Bakker, executive director of the Michigan Asparagus Advisory Board (MAAB).

“It has been near the top of Michigan field trials,” he said. “Seed production is increasing and has been for the last few years, but demand will outweigh production until 2014.”

Bakker also reported that several of the Guelph trial varieties were doing well and should make it to production soon. Two of the varieties, UG 09 and UG 20, are in pre-commercial seed production.

Those varieties are showing promise, Bakker said, but MAAB will not make a recommendation until after 2016, and they won’t be commercially available until 2017.
Bakker said MAAB has some crowns of the Guelph varieties available for trials now, on a limited basis.

Rutgers University has partnered with Walker Brothers to sell asparagus seeds, and is working on new seed blocks. For 2011, the university has a good supply of Jersey Giant and Jersey Knight varieties, and should have them until 2014. It is, however, sold out of Jersey Supreme seed, and Bakker expects the university won’t have any until 2012, perhaps even 2014.

“They are the largest asparagus seed producers in the world,” Bakker said. “They are planning new production of Deluxe, Supreme and Knight, and should have light production in 2013, limited in 2014 and be in full production by 2015.”
Vilmorin, one of the largest vegetable seed companies in the world, acquired a license to sell Rutgers’ New Jersey hybrids in 2009. Under this license, the company can produce and sell Jersey Supreme, Jersey Deluxe and unnamed varieties NJ 956, 953, 977, 978 and 1021. Rutgers controls the tissue culture of the parent plants, Bakker said, and has concentrated seed production in California. At this time, Vilmorin hasn’t been allowed to enter the California seed blocks, he said.

“At this time, the relationship between Vilmorin and Rutgers is improving,” Bakker said. “The future is bright, but in the future Vilmorin will probably take seed production to South America when they finally get access to the cultures.”

Bakker said Vilmorin has its own variety, too. Mondeo is a white variety with relatively high fern branching. It is replant tolerant and has a yield very close to, if not equal to, Guelph Millennium, Bakker said.

For more information, visit www.asparagus.org.

By Derrek Sigler


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