As 2016 gets into spring our Carrot Seed project is off to a great start. Here is an update on what has happened to date!
Due to the overwhelming presence of Queen Anne’s Lace (Daucus carota var. carota), the wild equivalent of the cultivated carrot (Daucus carota), in British Columbia it is nearly impossible to save true-to-type carrot seed. Queen Anne’s Lace readily cross-pollinates with cultivated carrot cultivars with the primary pollination vector being insects. Carrot seed which is at risk of having been cross-pollinated by Queen Anne’s Lace has no on-farm or commercial value.
This project is exploring the economic and practical viability of producing carrot seed in secure enclosures as a means of preventing Queens Anne’s Lace from cross pollinating with domesticated carrot cultivars.
2016 will be the fourth year of this project in which our farmers and project coordinators will use our three years of experience to produce a high-quality, true-to-type carrot seed crop which will subsequently be made for sale to farmers in bulk and to gardeners via individual packet sales.
We are happy to bring on two new growers to the project this year: Jeremy Pitchford of Pitchfork Farm in Langley, and Kristjan Johannson at Sharing Farm in Richmond. Jen Cody and Craig Evans are still growing carrot seed on Vancouver Island while growers Patrick Steiner and Mojave Kaplan are still involved in the project as advisors. We have a very strong team for 2016!
We are pleased that funding from the Organic Science Cluster Program has been approved again this year for the project. We receive $16,000 through out collaboration with University of Manitoba.
With 2 new growers this year we needed to source new planting stock for 2016. Because Patrick and Mojave are still growing out seed crops themselves we were unsure whether they would have any stock to share. I put word out to the organic community to see if anyone has any OP carrots in storage which would by suitable as planting stock. Interestingly, many people still had carrots in storage and in the ground, but they were all hybrids and not suitable for seed production.
After following up with our current growers Mojave was able to confirm she had extra stecklings of the Rumba variety which she could share with the new growers (thanks, Mojave!). We brought in the Rumba seed last year from Nash Huber in Washington State, who is the breeder of the carrot. One of the recommendations form the 2014 research year was that all the growers grew the same carrot cultivar and in 2016 all three program growers plus Mojave and Patrick will be growing Rumba carrot for seed!
In order to grow carrot seed without risk of cross pollination with Queen Anne’s Lace, growers use isolation tents which prevent outside insects from cross pollinating the crop. In past years growers have spent a significant amount of time designing and building structures which has been a challenge.
This year we have purchased covers from Redwood Empire Awning in California which are specially designed for pollinator isolation. This will make things much easier and faster for growers and give us structures that can be used for years to come. We were able to get the frames made locally which saved on cost and shipping.
This weekend saw our two Mainland growers getting their stecklings in the ground. It is important to get the stecklings in the ground early to ensure a long enough season for seed maturity – and because they can only store for so long!
Look for more updates as the season continues. Still to come:
- Putting up structures
- Staking stecklings
- Crop monitoring