Researchers develop fast-growing broccoli to beat fluctuating weather

Scientists at the John Innes Centre (JIC) are developing a fast-growing sprouting broccoli that goes from seed to harvest in 8 to 10 weeks.

Image: JIC
Image: JIC

The broccoli has the potential to crop twice a season in the field or to be grown all year round in protected conditions.

The innovation builds on fundamental plant research by Professor Dame Caroline Dean and her lab on vernalisation – the need for some plants to experience a period of cold weather before they can flower.

Working with Professor Dean, Dr Judith Irwin and her team have focused on translating this knowledge to brassica crops.

She said: "This is a very exciting development as it has the potential to remove our exposure to seasonal weather fluctuations from crop production.

"This could mean broccoli - and in future other vegetables where the flower is eaten, for example, cauliflowers - can be grown anywhere at any time enabling continuous production and supply of fresh local produce."

JIC aims to provide pre-breeding material to plant breeders and growers for year-round scheduling of brassicas.

Its head of business development Dr Jonathan Clarke, said: "We are considering the potential of moving some forms of food production into contained horticultural production systems, from simple glasshouse or growth rooms to more complex vertical farms.

"This new line of broccoli could be grown in such systems and would overcome the problem of seasonality and our dependence on imported crops."

The next step towards commercialisation involves flavour and nutritional analysis and performance testing under commercial growing conditions.

Irwin will discuss the new line of broccoli at an Agri-Tech East’s Nutritious and Delicious event at the Institute of Food Research, Norwich on 22 February.

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