Increased profits for sustainably produced garlic

Final Report for LNE05-231

Project Type: Research and Education
Funds awarded in 2005: $65,000.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2009
Region: Northeast
State: New York
Project Leader:
Dr. Gayle Volk
Gayle Volk
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Project Information


Vegetable farmers used sustainable practices to perform the first multi-year garlic variety trial with 10 varieties grown at 11 diverse locations in North America for two years. We were successfully able to correlate the yield and qualities of 10 distinct garlic cultivars with growth environment, inputs, quality, and chemical composition data (see Volk and Stern, HortScience 2009 publication). We increased public awareness of garlic diversity through many outreach efforts. We have proposed characteristics specific to varietal garlic types and we have attracted new garlic growers.


Garlic is a profitable crop for small to medium-sized vegetable farmers in the NE. Organic garlic commands high market prices and demand for local garlic is high. Despite the increasing market for specialty garlics it is remarkable how little is known about the diverse types of garlic available in the U.S. Until the garlic genetic diversity publication by Volk et al. (2004), there weren’t published assessments of the genetic similarities and differences among garlic types. Without knowing the extent of what was available, regional and national variety trials had never been performed.
Interest in local production is fueled when growers realize that yields often improve when locally grown seed garlic is planted. Farmers need to know which garlic types perform well under their growing conditions, and they need reliable descriptors to publicize these types to their customers. Most consumers don’t realize that there is more than one kind of garlic. Large-scale California growers have greatly reduced their garlic production in recent years.
Most garlic available in supermarkets is imported from China and is not produced sustainably. Throughout the U.S., farmers have discovered that the demand for local, fresh market, high quality, sustainably grown varietal garlic far exceeds supply. Income from fresh-market sustainably grown garlic fields can range from $10,000 to $30,000 per acre. However, this crop is labor intensive, with more than 20 human interventions during the growing seasons. Such management-intensive production without available labor in the NE means that fresh-market garlic is produced on a limited scale with minimal mechanization. Varietal garlic is usually produced on small or diversified farms. Therefore, expansion of this commodity is dependent upon attracting new growers to the garlic farming community.

Performance Target:

We will increase the yield, quality and uniformity of garlic produced by small scale farms. Achieved target.

In the NE, the number of garlic growers will increase by 10% (60 growers) and profits will increase by 25% for 300 of the current garlic producers. Increased number of growers by at least 60 in the NE. Achieved target.

In addition, nationally 100 growers will begin garlic production and 2500 current growers will have increased yields by growing garlics best suited to their regional environments. Achieved target.


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  • David Stern


Materials and methods:

Objective 1) Correlate the yield of 10 distinct garlic cultivars with location, inputs, quality, and chemical composition data. The effects of environmental and geographical conditions on garlic bulb yield, quality, and chemical composition were determined. We identified consistent, environmentally-independent, descriptive characters that can be used to identify 10 garlic types. We selected one cultivar from each garlic type to represent the spectrum of genetic diversity: Porcelain, Purple stripe, Marble purple stripe, Glazed purple stripe, Rocambole, Silverskin, Creole, Asiatic, Artichoke, and Turban.
Year 1: Bulbs of 10 garlic types were purchased for all growers from a common source. Using sustainable practices, all of the growers will produce 10 varieties in three completely randomized, replicate test plots with 16 plants per plot. Growers recorded all amendment applications, human interventions (irrigation events, scape removal methods, weeding and pest control measures), and collected data on leaf architecture, scape emergence, flowering date and description, and harvest date. They also photographed the plants at specific stages of development, and provided soil, compost, and irrigation water samples at two pre-determined times during the growing season for soil and water quality tests. Regional weather data was collected from local weather stations. After the growing season, each participant shipped 12 of the cured garlic bulbs from each replicate plot to the PI for uniform data collection yield (bulb wt, bulb circumference, clove number, clove wt), and wrapper color. Sulfur content and antioxidant levels were determined for each variety from each location. “Genotype by environment” statistical analyses were performed to correlate the known genetic variation within and among the chosen accessions with the quantitative data.
Year 2: Planting will be performed using cloves of each of the same 10 varieties harvested from that grower’s field during Year 1 of the project. Data were collected and analyzed as described for Year 1.

Objective 2) Increase public awareness of garlic diversity. It is critical that the results of this study are made available to consumers, extension personnel, researchers, consultants as well as current and new garlic growers. Consumers have a great interest and curiosity in garlic (50,000 people attend the Hudson Valley Garlic Festival annually). Our outreach plan had high publicity for our research project as well as the NE-SARE program. We developed a website and digital press package to illustrate the diversity of high quality garlic to attract consumers and growers to the sustainable, varietal garlic market. Results were (and will continue to be) disseminated through gardening and cooking magazines, scientific publications, newsletters (Garlic Press, circ. 1200), and ATTRA, agricultural papers and reports, and outreach presentations at agricultural workshops, conferences and festivals.

Objective 3) Develop name recognition for selected varietal garlics. Product recognition (such as with Vidalia onions) occurs when there is a critical mass of growers producing an appealing variety. With this, demand for product increases dramatically. With name recognition, regional cultivar recommendations can be provided to growers. We are preparing additional press materials to aid in the advertisement of regional varietal garlics. We also have information available on our project website. It has been determined that the adoption of recognized names for varietal garlics occur several years.

Objective 4) Attract new growers to this profitable niche commodity. U.S. consumption of garlic has increased 6-fold in the past 15 years. When available, local, fresh-market sustainably grown garlic easily outsells industrially produced, imported garlic. Garlic is a crop that can be successfully grown in both rural communities and urban gardens. It requires no elaborate equipment to produce a quality crop. Most varieties of garlic can be successfully stored for at least five months after harvest at room temperature, which extends marketing options. When diverse family farms remain intact, local community businesses that depend on their support will survive. The social impact of family farms in America is critical to maintaining viable rural communities. Garlic production will continue to expand to meet the increasing demands. New farmers entering the fresh vegetable market industry will produce garlic. The growth of CSAs will drive additional garlic production, since every CSA provides garlic as a vegetable selection.

Research results and discussion:

1) September 2004: PI and Key Project Leader met with garlic growers in Geneva, NY to discuss project proposal and determine priority research areas. Achieved on time.
2) Summer 2006: Garlic growers participating in the NE SARE grant harvest their first year experimental crop and data is tabulated. Achieved on time.
3) Fall 2006: Public views the website that lists growth protocols detailed for each grower. Preliminary results are presented at outreach forums (Garlic Seed Foundation sponsored events (>50 attendees), Garlic Festivals (>4000 attendees), Garlic is Life Symposium (>50 attendees) and through written documents (Garlic Press, circ. 1200). Achieved on time (Garlic is Life Symposium was not held).
9/22/06Project participant meeting was held in Albany, NY
4) Summer 2007: Garlic growers harvest second year crop and data is tabulated. Achieved on time.
5) Fall 2007: Garlic enthusiasts find out results from the first multi-location, multi-variety garlic research trial in the Garlic Press (circ. 1200), a scientific journal (such as HortScience, available at libraries worldwide), and through press releases distributed to newspapers, gardening magazines, farm newsletters, as well as posted on the website. Results are presented at scientific meetings as well as a minimum of six public outreach forums throughout the northeast. Outreach exceeded expectations. Results were presented at ASHS 2008 conference by G.M. Volk. Scientific journal publication was delayed until Aug. 2009.
6) Summer 2008: Follow-up conversations with new growers that have contacted project personnel as well as survey of garlic growers. Achieved on time.
7) The number of garlic growers will increase by 10% (60 growers) and profits will increase by 25% for 50% of the current garlic producers. In addition, nationally 100 growers will begin garlic production and 2500 current growers will have increased yields by growing garlic varieties best suited to their regional environments. Garlic production profits have increased.

Participation Summary


Educational approach:

Project website
Updates to the website continue.

Peer-reviewed publication (a second is in preparation).
Volk GM and Stern D. 2009. Phenotypic characteristics of ten garlic cultivars grown at different North American locations. HortScience 44:1238-1247.

Volk GM, Caspersen AM, and Stern D. 2010. Total phenolics of diverse garlic (Allium sativum L.) types. To be submitted to Scientia Horticulturae.

Extension bulletins that include information relating to the project:
Garlic: Organic production. By Janet Bachmann and Tammy Hinman, 2008. ATTRA: National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service.

Growing garlic in Minnesota. By C. Rosen, R. Becker, V. Fritz, B. Hutchison, J. Percich, C. Tong, and J. Wright. U. Minn. Extension Service WW-07317.

Press Releases
Press kit from project website: Big news for garlic-In the field, at the lab and on the table. 2/14/06

New York Story: Local garlic makes good. NY Times. By Dana Bowen. Sept. 29, 2005

ASHS Press Release: “Sustainably Grown Garlic”. Oct. 27, 2009.

Selected Popular Press
Ophardt, Marianne, Winter 2009.“Demystifying” types of garlic. MasterGardener. Pg. 17-19.

Block, E. 2010. Garlic and other Alliums. Royal Society of Chemistry, Cambridge, U.K. 454 pgs. (pg. 7-10)

Meredith, T.J. 2008. The complete book of Garlic. Timber Press, Portland, OR. 330 pgs. (pg. 153-189).

Stern, D. 2005. S.A.R.E Funds Garlic Research. The Garlic Press, #45:1.

Organic Gardening (in press)

Interviews with press: 20

Scientific Presentations
Volk, G. M., Rosen, C., Allan, D., O’Callaghan, A., Zandstra, J. and Stern, D. 2008. Regional specificity of genetically diverse garlic varieties. Am. Soc. Hort. Sci. July 21-24, 2008, Orlando, FL. 43:1109-1110. 2008.

Volk, G.M. 2005. “Preserving the genetic diversity of garlic” at the Colorado State University. Seminar: Dept. of Horticulture and Landscape Architecture, Ft. Collins, CO.

Public/Farmer Presentations
6/06 Farmers/consumers, Accokeek, MD 65 attendees
7/06 Farmers/consumers, Richmond, VT 40 attendees
7/06 Farmers/consumers, Brunswick, ME 16 attendees
9/06 Hudson Valley Garlic Festival 1000 booth visitors
180 Stern presentation
50 Volk presentation
12/06 Farmers/consumers, Abington, VA 65 attendees
12/06 Farmers/consumers, Abington, VA 150 attendees
1/07 NOFA-NY, Syracuse, NY 115 attendees
2/07 PASA, State College, PA 160 attendees
9/07 Hudson Valley Garlic Festival 2500 booth visitors
200 Stern presentation
9/08 Cornell Cooperative Extension
Master Gardener, Canandaigua, NY 225 attendees
9/08 Hudson Valley Garlic Festival 3500 booth visitors
200 Stern presentation
2/09 NY State Vegetable Conf 100 attendees
9/09 Consumers, Laconia, NH 41 attendees
9/09 Farmers, Laconia, NH 76 attendees
9/09 Hudson Valley Garlic Festival 4500 booth visitors
200 Stern presentation

Outreach in progress
Project results brochure
Garlic disease brochure
Publication of results in Garlic Press
Updates to website—including powerpoint presentations

No milestones

Additional Project Outcomes

Project outcomes:

Impacts of Results/Outcomes

Our project has had many scientific and outreach successes. We found that garlic clove arrangement, number of topsets, topset size, topset color, number of cloves, clove weight, clove skin color, and clove skin tightness were generally stable for each cultivar, regardless of production location and conditions. Bulb wrapper color and intensity were highly dependent on location and cultivar. These results will assist with niche and cultivar identification. Our research also showed that adequate nitrogen and potassium fertilization is needed for the production of large bulbs. This is the first data that confirms those requirements. We also summarized yield data for each location. Farmers can use this information when selecting new varieties for production.

Outcomes will continue. We will continue to make project information available on the project website. We will also develop a garlic disease brochure, project brochure, and a scientific publication on antioxidant properties. Results will be presented at future speaking engagements as well as in the Garlic Press.

Economic Analysis

American grown garlic is in higher demand than ever. China has replaced California as the largest producer of garlic for the American market. When consumers are aware of the source of garlic, they will choose to purchase garlic from local suppliers. These local suppliers are small farmers that do not store and process bulbs for economic reasons. They harvest and sell garlic seasonally. This is due to a lack of labor and affordability of processing machinery. Local garlic is recognized as being higher quality than imported garlic. Garlic can command prices as high as $20 a pound in some markets. From personal communication, we have learned that web-distributors of garlic have difficulty finding adequate quantities and qualities of specialty garlic types. Garlic remains a crop that can be profitably grown by local growers. Public recognition of diverse garlic types will increase variety and garlic will be in even greater demand.

Farmer Adoption

We have found it difficult to assess “farmer adoption”. The publicity from our project has been very positive. Each of the participants in the project appreciated the opportunity to participate in the project. Each of the regional participants is a leader in their farming communities and they will continue to educate local consumers and growers about the project findings.

We have found that growers would like more information and more data for their use. While they appreciate the information we provide, they are interested in pursuing regional variety trials. They are also in great need of informational brochures, specifically on disease information. We are continuing to develop these materials. Farmers are also interested in having access to the varieties included in the research project (see below), and we will continue to work to find a way that makes it accessible.

Assessment of Project Approach and Areas of Further Study:

Areas needing additional study

Varieties in the trial need to be made available to growers for their use. Ideally the varieties will be made available through regional growers/distributors. Internet dealers may also be interested in providing the collection as a set on their websites. Growers must also be encouraged to use existing names of garlic types. This will happen as name recognition continues to take hold, particularly for desirable types.

Information comparing the materials present in the US market and germplasm collections to that of international collections would be useful and valuable.

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.