- Vegetables: asparagus
- Crop Production: organic fertilizers
- Education and Training: demonstration, on-farm/ranch research
- Production Systems: organic agriculture
In many areas of the South, asparagus is not grown commercially because of hot weather conditions and a limited production period.
Asparagus is a perennial plant that is adapted to climates that provide several months of cold temperatures in the winter. During the fall and winter, freezing temperatures cause the plants to go into a dormant state. In areas of the South where temperatures either don't reach the freezing point in winter or where freezing temperatures last only a few days, the plants never have a chance to go truly dormant. As a result, plants are continuously sending up new spears, depleting the food supply and causing the crowns to become weak. After a year or two, the plants begin to produce wood, spindly spears. Because of this, southern growers have been discouraged from producing asparagus commercially.
Researchers in Hawaii, however, have found that asparagus can be easily adapted to a year-round growing season in a subtropical climate. Instead of winter dormancy, water was cut off for one month and the ferns allowed to die back. After the month's end, water was restored and emerging spears were harvested. The researchers determined that not only could asparagus be easily grown using this method, but by drying out different sections of an asparagus field at successive intervals, year-round harvesting was also possible.
The results demonstrate that asparagus has the potential to be a successful alternative crop for small-scale producers in subtropical South Texas and other areas of the South, but these growers often do not have the time or resources to research and test new cultivars and new cultivation methods.
Project objectives from proposal:
- Develop an organic cultivation method that allows for year-round harvesting of asparagus in South Texas.
- Test five cultivars of asparagus to determine which perform better in South Texas weather conditions.