New Way to Grow Broccoli Cuts Chemicals, Saves Water and Protects Soil
ARS News Service
Agricultural Research Service, USDA
Doris Stanley, phone (301) 893-6727, firstname.lastname@example.org
March 27, 1997
Whether stir-fried, creamed, steamed, raw, or in casseroles or soup,
Americans are eating more broccoli, and scientists with USDA's Agricultural
Research Service have developed a better way to grow it.
By growing broccoli in a soybean mulch, they're using less chemicals,
conserving water and eliminating soil erosion. This no-till system allows
farmers to grow broccoli on the highly erodible soils of the mid-Atlantic
states of Pennsylvania, Maryland, West Virginia, Virginia and North
Carolina, where the terrain is often sloped.
Working with the Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University in
Blacksburg, Va., ARS scientists plant a forage soybean variety that's high
in nitrogen and grows to about 6 feet. They then cut the plants or roll
them over to form a mulch to cover the soil. The thick thatch suppresses
weeds, retains moisture, and protects and enriches the soil with organic
matter. Broccoli requires soils rich in organic matter and high rates of
Results indicate that the new method produces yields comparable to those
from conventional planting in bare soil. In California, where about 88
percent of U.S. broccoli is now grown, the crop is seeded in bare soil,
followed by thinning and cultivation. Because weeds cause the greatest crop
losses, cultivation and herbicide applications are standard and costly
practices. Growers routinely apply chemical fertilizers two or three times
during the growing season.
Per capita consumption of broccoli in this country reached 6 pounds last
year, compared to only l.5 pounds in 1970. U.S. growers met this increased
demand by producing 1.3 million pounds last year--four times the 325,000
pounds grown in 1970. Broccoli is high in vitamins and dietary fiber.
Another plus: Broccoli is rich in sulforaphane, a compound associated with
reduced risk of breast cancer.
The March 1997 issue of Agricultural Research magazine, the monthly
publication of the Agricultural Research Service, gives more details about
the new no-till way to grow broccoli. The magazine can also be viewed on
the World Wide Web at http://www.ars.usda.gov/is/AR.
Scientific contact: Aref Abdul-Baki, USDA-ARS Vegetable Laboratory,
Beltsville, Md., phone (301) 504-5057, fax 301-504-5555, e-mail
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