Organic Cultivation Methods for Asparagus as an Alternative Crop in South Texas

Project Overview

FS14-281
Project Type: Farmer/Rancher
Funds awarded in 2014: $14,736.00
Projected End Date: 09/15/2017
Grant Recipient: Texas/Mexico Border Coalition CBO
Region: Southern
State: Texas
Principal Investigator:
Gilbert Garza
Texas/Mexico Border Coalition CBO

Annual Reports

Commodities

  • Vegetables: asparagus

Practices

  • Crop Production: organic fertilizers
  • Education and Training: demonstration, on-farm/ranch research
  • Production Systems: organic agriculture

    Summary:

    Investigations for an organic cultivation method that allows for year-round harvesting of asparagus in South Texas resulted in substantial success via the ‘cut back and harvest’ method. Under this method, asparagus ferns were pruned back every two months to try to extend and maintain a continuous production of asparagus throughout the year. As the new spears emerge after being pruned, they were harvested for the two-month period. Furthermore, five cultivars of asparagus were examined to determine which perform better in South Texas weather conditions. Results of this research show that the cultivars from highest to lowest performing, based on the total weight of asparagus spears produced, were; Jersey Supreme, Jersey Knight, Mary Washington, Purple Passion, and UC 157. This research also showed that asparagus production in South Texas can have two distinct seasons, instead of only one: a primary season that peaks from March through May, and a secondary season that peaks September through November. This research shows that asparagus harvest in South Texas can be strong for 6 months, and can extend for 10 months, out of the year, with only two or three months of very low production, including January and August.

    Project objectives:

    The demonstration of an extended, viable growing season for asparagus in the South would provide another crop option for southern agricultural producers. This option could be particularly beneficial to smaller-scale producers that direct market their crops locally over a period of several months. Asparagus is not typically grown commercially in the South because of hot weather conditions and a limited harvest season. This research tested five cultivars of asparagus for heat tolerance and established organic cultivation methods for asparagus in South Texas, and other warm areas of the South, that can provide near year-round production.

    This project’s three research objectives were carried out simultaneously over the course of a 28-month data-collection period:
    1. Develop an organic cultivation method that allows for year-round harvesting of asparagus in South Texas.

    The steps necessary to accomplish this objective include:
    a. Prune one replication of asparagus ferns below the soil surface to mimic die-back during dormancy and harvest emerging spears for a two-month period.
    b. Prune the replication again 10 months after the first pruning.
    c. Repeat steps a. and b. with the second replication of asparagus two months after the first replication was pruned. Continue with the third, fourth, and fifth replications, waiting two months before pruning each subsequent replication.
    d. Collect yield data from each of the five cultivars of asparagus from each replication.

    2. Test five cultivars of asparagus to determine which perform better in South Texas weather conditions.

    3. Disseminate findings to local growers and growers throughout the South through outreach efforts.

    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.