Harvesting Alternatives for Burdock as an Alternative Crop in an Organic Production System

Final Report for FW99-089

Project Type: Farmer/Rancher
Funds awarded in 1999: $3,000.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2004
Region: Western
State: Washington
Principal Investigator:
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Project Information


· Develop an effective method of producing burdock, also known as gobo, an Asian vegetable
· Test two methods of soil preparation before planting
· Test two methods of harvesting

The market for burdock requires that the roots be straight and long (over 30 inches), meaning that appropriate tillage and harvest implements are critical.

Delbert Wisdom, project coordinator, prepared the soil in April using two methods, a rotary-tiller-style machine Washington State University purchased in Japan, and a set of soil shanks manufactured by Ag Engineering in Kennewick, Wash., and mounted on a three-point hitch. The gobo was planted with a Stanhay vegetable seeder directly over the cultivated row.

Alan Wicks of Judel Farm and Bill Riley and Bill Dean of Washington State University monitored root growth during the season to determine optimum harvest time. The gobo was harvested in August and September using two methods, one a Japanese harvest aid purchased by WSU and modified by WSU ag engineer Thayne Wiser, the other ripping and hand pulling.

Root quantity and quality were assessed and the percentage of marketable and No. 1 roots compared to determine value.

The best method for planting the crop was to till the soil to the desired depth using a powered tiller. Merely shanking the soil ahead of planting did not produce uniform roots and made harvest more difficult. At the Wiser Farm location, with sandy soil, roots grew until they reached previous tillage or a natural compaction zone. They branched, turned sideways or stopped growing at the compaction zone, and only about 35% were of marketable quality.

At Judel Farms, more than 80% of the burdock roots were straight and unbranched when the tillage device was used, compared with about 50% when the shank method was used for ground preparation.

The roots were harvested by hand regardless of the soil preparation technique. The traditional harvest aid used in Japan failed to produce uniform roots and made harvest more difficult. And hand pulling was difficult with roots grown into shanked ground. Shanking the soil close to the roots greatly improved the hand-pulled harvest. Additional modification of the shanks may further improve efficiency.

Wisdom reports that these production methods have helped him develop a small market for a specialty crop that fits well into his organic crop program. The crop has few disease or insect pests, making it a good rotational crop that can benefit small family farms. Additionally, the deep tillage opens the soil for increased moisture penetration and aeration.

"We are finding the crop to be useful in our attempt to decrease reliance on pesticides and to reduce water applications," says Wisdom.

The methods developed in this study should allow farmers to grow another specialty crop, allowing crop diversification and providing market opportunities. And they will help small farms assure economic viability.

Paperwork and delays impeded progress, especially when crops require timely planting and harvest, says Wisdom, who recommends a more streamlined process.

Information on this project was presented to the annual meeting of the International Marketing Program for Agricultural Commodities and Trade in September of 1999.


Participation Summary

Research Outcomes

No research outcomes
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.