Dual Season Organic Asparagus Production

Project Overview

Project Type: Farmer/Rancher
Funds awarded in 2009: $9,995.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2011
Region: Southern
State: South Carolina
Principal Investigator:
Mary Connor
Three Sisters Farm


  • Vegetables: asparagus


  • Crop Production: continuous cropping, double cropping
  • Education and Training: demonstration, extension, farmer to farmer, on-farm/ranch research
  • Farm Business Management: new enterprise development, budgets/cost and returns, marketing management, whole farm planning
  • Natural Resources/Environment: soil stabilization
  • Pest Management: cultural control, field monitoring/scouting
  • Production Systems: organic agriculture
  • Soil Management: soil chemistry, organic matter
  • Sustainable Communities: employment opportunities

    Proposal summary:

    South Carolina was once the largest producer of asparagus and it was one of the largest cash crops in the state in the 1930's. In subsequent years New Jersey, Delaware and California were able to capture the market due mostly to lower transportation costs to large metropolitan areas. As northern populations migrate to the south, and transportation costs have increased, this opens a window of opportunity to South Carolina growers to again resurrect the market for asparagus. With resort communities flourishing along the coastal areas of Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina, farming communities paralleling this coastal band could take advantage of lower transportation costs and the demand from more affluent consumers for local and organic produce. In this study, two problems will be simultaneously evaluated. First, the viability of dual season organic production of asparagus and secondly evaluating dual season markets for organically produced asparagus. Because of the labor intensive requirements of asparagus production whether conventional or organic, the production costs for these do not vary as much as other crops. So, organic asparagus is ideal for competing with its conventional counterpart. A test plot of asparagus will be planted on certified organic land. The plot to be used is currently planted in cereal rye and clover. In the spring, the plot will be prepared for the asparagus crowns. Initial ground preparation in the spring will consist of a series of mechanical cultivations. After the trenches are dug, weeding will be carried out initially using flame weeding and manual weeding. As crowns develop tops, a cover crop will be planted in lanes to reduce weed pressure and soil erosion. During the first year, no asparagus will be marketed, but data will be collected to determine the expected production results. During the second crop year, a minimal crop (approximately one tenth of sample crop) will be harvested and tested for market. This will be a small amount for a test market and will only be an amount which will not harm future production. Data of plant health and estimated production will be collected. In order to provide outreach a field day at the end of the trial will be held. Extension agents will be a part of this outreach as well as farmers. A detailed report of the methods used and results will be produced.

    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.