Ramp Sustainability Trial - Replanting Root Plates

Progress report for FNE23-067

Project Type: Farmer
Funds awarded in 2023: $20,169.00
Projected End Date: 11/30/2025
Grant Recipient: self
Region: Northeast
State: Pennsylvania
Project Leader:
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Project Information


Ramp harvesting crew at work


Project Objectives:

This project seeks to determine the viability of planting new ramp beds or augmenting existing beds by transplanting the portion of the plant not used in culinary applications - the root plate. The project will test the timing of harvest, the size of the harvested plant, and the amount of propagule transplanted over multiple beds in both existing and new ramp lands.

Metrics include the number of surviving transplants, the number of leaves, the length and width of the leaves, and the weight of the plant. In the second year the metrics include whether the plant shows signs of producing flowers and seeds.

It is expected that the results will be able to be statistically analyzed to determine the optimum method. A similar study is being proposed in the Southeast SARE region to determine if there are any geographic differences in the results.


As the popularity of ramps has increased and a commercial market has been established, every year leading up to ramp season there are articles in the NY Times and other publications declaring that ramps are in danger of being overharvested or even exterminated. As a sustainable ramp producer on my own private lands I get calls and emails from family, friends and customers with concern. While we have established a practice of harvesting a sustainable number of whole plants for sale each year combined with long term managing the forest ramp lands for tree canopy and understory we are aware of the issue on public lands and remote private lands.

The sustainability of wild populations of ramps has been questioned and addressed in previous research. Most research has focussed on overharvesting on public lands. Previous research has sought to quantify the number of plants/area that constitute a sustainable population (Population Viability Analysis of American Ginseng and Wild Leek Harvested in Stochastic Environments by Patrick Nantel, Daniel Gagnon and Andree Nault) and the frequency of harvest/area that insures sustainability (Population recovery following differential harvesting of Allium tricoccum Ait. in the southern Appalachians by Janet H. Rocka, Brian Beckage and Louis J. Gross ).

Other research has been conducted into optimal habitats including tree species composition and soil characteristics and tested soil amendments in managed ramp populations (Response of Woodland-planted Ramps to Surface-applied Calcium, Planting Density, and Bulb Preparation by K. Dale Ritchey and Carol M. Schumann).

Limited research has been conducted on planting of ramp bulbs and seeds to augment existing populations and establish new populations (SURVIVAL AND GROWTH OF Allium tricoccum AIT. TRANSPLANTS IN DIFFERENT HABITATS by Liette Vasseur & Daniel Gagnon) and this has been demonstrated to be one way to augment sustainability.

We propose testing a different approach. In commercial and consumer ramp processing, leaves are often trimmed to use in one set of preparations and bulbs are trimmed of their root plate to use in other preparations. The root plate is then discarded. Some have suggested that the root plate may contain enough viable material to regenerate into a plant that can subsequently be harvested or left to mature into its reproductive state in 4 to 5 years. To our knowledge, this practice has not been scientifically studied.

We do have some experience trying this method ad hoc. Towards the end of every ramp season when leaves start to senesce we offer to our customers "ramp bulbs only" at a much higher price to account for the labor of trimming the leaves and root plates and delivering bulbs ready to cook. Many times we have replanted the root plates in a quick manner without regard to the number of plants or the size of the propagule planted. We have seen some regrowth with this ad hoc method.

We propose to systemically test this method and to determine the amount of bulb material required to be retained with the root plate and the time of harvest to find the best practice for viability. The study is designed to cover two growing seasons to explore not only whether the plants regrow from the root plates but also whether they begin to approach their reproductive state by growing three leaves and possibly generating a flower spike by the second growing season.  

If this proves to be a viable approach we will share with the ramp community as well as end-consumers the findings that they can "plant their ramps and eat them too".  


Description of farm operation:

Delaware Valley Ramps has been in business since 2007, harvesting, processing and selling ramps and other wild forest edibles to markets in NYC, the Western Catskills and NE Pennsylvania. Our business specializes in marketing spring ephemerals and we are involved in outreach and education on our practices year round. In addition to this SARE funded project we have been involved in other research on spring ephemerals with biologists from Penn State who utilize our property as one of their research sites.

The property consists of 20 mostly wooded acres on the Delaware River in Ne Pennsylvania. Ramps grow prolifically on more than half of the property.

In 2021 we also instituted an experiential business called Ramps U-Pick where people come during ramp season to learn about the plant and its habitat, how to dig and process ramps, and then have the opportunity to harvest whole plants, bulbs or seeds for their own consumption or to transplant. Participants, who purchase tickets for a timed slot, are then offered several dishes made from ramps and are given recipes to take home and try on their own.


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  • Dr. Eric Burkhart - Technical Advisor


Materials and methods:

Ramp Sustainability Trial - Replanting Root Plates

Research Activities

At the start of the project in the Spring of 2023, 6 study plots were established on Delaware Valley Ramps owned land. 3 of the plots are on existing ramps producing land and 3 of the plots are on land of a similar forested nature with appropriate tree canopy density, tree species mix and soil moisture where ramps have not naturally colonized. 

Four of the plots measure 4 by 6 feet and are staked at the corners. Two of the plots are 4 by 8 feet. All ramp plants in the existing ramp producing lands were harvested when the plots were established so that there are no natural plants remaining. Brush was cleared from all plots.

Four of the plots were divided into 8 sections (see plot design diagram under Other Relevant Research Information below). Each section was labeled with a permanent marker and photographed. Two of the plots were divided into 10 sections.

To test the timing of harvesting and transplantation, 4 of the sections  compare the outcomes for early harvested plants (which we describe as pencil stage bulbs typically in the first or second week of the commercial harvest) with the outcomes from the late harvested plants (which we describe as teardrop stage bulbs typically in the third and fourth week of harvest). W

Staked planting bed for ramp sustainability trials.
Staked planting bed for ramp sustainability trials.

e further compare the outcomes for transplanting root plates from 2 vs. 3 leaf plants. Typically, plants that mature over 4 or 5 years to their reproductive age have 3 leaves though in some years where the plants are stressed we will see flowers and seed production from 2 leaf plants.

To test the optimal size of the propagule, 4 of the sections will further compare the outcomes for transplanting root plates with 1/4 inch of the bulb attached vs. root plates with 1/2 inch of the bulb attached. These will also further compare the outcomes for 2 vs. 3 leaf plants.

In addition, as a control, we added two sections in two plots (one in the ramp producing lands and one in the non-producing lands) and planted 5 full ramp bulbs and root plates in each of the sections. 

Five propagules were planted in each section. A total of 260 transplants were completed, with 30 for each treatment and 20 for the controls. 

In the spring of 2023, transplants were harvested and segmented by leaf number at two times during the harvest, early and late. Prior to propagule preparation and planting a total of 83 whole plants were measured, weight and length as well as the weight of the propagules was recorded. This included 8 sample plants from each treatment and 19 of the whole bulb control plants. 

The plants were then trimmed to the desired propagule size (1/4 or 1/2 inch of bulb attached). The resulting root plates were planted 2" below the soil level using a calibrated dibble. The plots were covered by raking forest duff to cover the transplants.  

In the spring of 2024 after the ramps have emerged and developed we will count the number of plants that have emerged in each of the plots and each of the sections of each plot. We will record for each plant the number of leaves.

In the spring of 2025 after the ramps have emerged and developed we will record the number of plants and the number of leaves. In the third week of the ramp season we will harvest half of the ramp plants, measure leaf length and width and plant weight for each plant. The other half of the plants we will allow to develop and see if they flower and set seeds. We will then harvest the remaining plants and measure for weight (as at this point the leaves will have senesced).

Research results and discussion:

As stated above, we added control sections to see if there was any difference in transplanting whole ramp bulbs from the cut bulbs. 

We did find during the growing season that two of the plots in the non-ramp producing lands contained concentrations of hay scented ferns. While there are places in the ramp producing lands that are  co-habbited by hay scented ferns they may have established after the ramps had established there and we do not know the impact of introducing ramps where hay scented ferns have already established.

Originally, this study was going to be replicated by another ramp producer in North Carolina. He decided not to proceed with the trials. However, Eric Burkhart undertook a similar trial at Penn State's Shaver's Creek Environmental Center. 

Ramp crew members staking out new trial planting beds
Ramp crew members staking out new trial planting beds

Our weights and measures of the ramp plants transplanted confirmed that late harvested plants were a little longer and weighed significantly more than early harvested plants and that ramp propagules weighed significantly more for late harvested plants than early harvested plants. Harvest was about two weeks later for late harvested plants (5/11/23) than early harvested plants (4/25/23). 

For example, early two leaf plants averaged 28.7 cm (11.28 inches) in length and weighed 7.8 grams and the propagule size averaged 1.9 grams. Early three leaf plants averaged 28.194 cm (11.1 inches) in length and weighed 10 grams and the propagule size averaged 2.5 grams. Late two leaf plants averaged 31.5 cm (12.4 inches) in length and weighed 12.06 grams and the propagule size averaged 4 grams. Late three leaf plants averaged 29.5 cm (11.6 inches) in length and weighed 13.4 grams and the propagule size averaged 4.2 grams.

We suspect that late harvested transplants will be more successful than early harvested transplants and that the success will be directly correlated to the size and weight of the propagule as late harvested plants have stored more energy in their bulbs.

Whole bulbs from late harvest averaged 6.2 grams for two leaf plants and 6.8 grams for 3 leaf plants.

Participation Summary
2 Farmers participating in research

Education & Outreach Activities and Participation Summary

1 Published press articles, newsletters
2 Webinars / talks / presentations

Participation Summary:

Education/outreach description:

Outreach Activities

We issued a press release on March 30, 2023 announcing the awarding of the grant and the commencement of the research project. It was picked up in the Sullivan County Democrat, a local weekly newspaper, on 4/28/23.

We are scheduled to present on sustainable management of ramp lands in a panel entitled "Native Plants for Farms & Everywhere Else" at the 2024 PASA conference on February 8, 2024. The objectives and scope of this SARE funded project will be included in the presentation.

We are scheduled to present on forest farming in Eric Burkharts Agroforestry PSU class on April 3, 2024. The objectives and scope of this SARE funded project will be included in the presentation.

We will prepare a webinar to be presented in various venues. The webinar will be an hour long, with 40 minutes of information sharing and 20 minutes for Q and A. We have prepared and presented webinars on various topics of forest management including ramp production in the past. See below for more information.

Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.