The Northeast Arugula Team (NEAT): Evaluation and Mitigation of Limitations to Profitability for Arugula and Brassica Leafy Green Production

Project Overview

Project Type: Research and Education
Funds awarded in 2023: $237,756.00
Projected End Date: 02/28/2026
Grant Recipient: The Pennsylvania State University
Region: Northeast
State: Pennsylvania
Project Leader:
Carolee Bull
The Pennsylvania State University

Information Products


  • Vegetables: greens (leafy), other


  • Crop Production: crop rotation, cropping systems, plant breeding and genetics, row covers (for season extension)
  • Education and Training: demonstration, extension, farmer to farmer, on-farm/ranch research, other, participatory research, technical assistance, workshop
  • Pest Management: cultural control, field monitoring/scouting, genetic resistance, integrated pest management, other, row covers (for pests)

    Proposal abstract:

    Problem and Justification: Consumers demand fresh high quality local greens. Brassica leafy greens are quick-growing shoulder season crops well suited to the Northeast's cool climate. Arugula (or rocket) is favored partly due to the health benefits associated with consumption [1]. Although, brassica leafy greens and specifically arugula are profitable components of mixed vegetable operations throughout the Northeast and contribute to the overall financial sustainability of these farms, the extent of arugula production and broader leafy greens in mixed vegetable operations is unknown, yet growers are reaching out to members of NEAT to help them identify and manage bacterial blight of arugula due to recent outbreaks.

    Solution and Approach:

    NEAT was formed to respond to grower requests for identification and management of foliar bacterial diseases of arugula. To meet the larger sustainability needs of mixed vegetable producers we conducted a preliminary grower’s survey (ongoing during the project) of factors limiting brassica leafy greens/arugula production. This project will meet growers’ needs through an iterative process of education, identification of issues, and research to meet those needs. We will use a variety of educational tools to deliver a staged learning Educational Plan.

    By the end of the project, we will understand the extent of brassica leafy green production in the Northeast through surveys conducted. The distribution of key pests and issues limiting yield will be mapped through on farm scouting of growers’ fields and submissions of plants to our team for disease and pathogen identification. Growers will be able to identify major pests and diseases of arugula and other brassica leafy greens and will consult experts for management due to our extensive education program and recognition of our team as experts. By screening over 100 lines in greenhouse/growth chamber and field trials, we will identify germplasm with resistance to foliar bacterial diseases, flea beetles, and bolting. Germplasm resistance/tolerance data will be provided to seed professionals through their involvement on the Project Advisory Committee (PAC) and through presentations at seed industry specific meetings to allow for selection of these materials for breeding for elite cultivars. To disseminate project materials, we will use a combination of in-person, written, and virtual  outreach approaches. Factsheets in English and Spanish along with short instructional videos, in-person field meetings, webinars will be developed to help growers develop scouting programs and identify problems in their greens, as well as strategies to mitigate disorders and pests. We will quantify our progress toward our learning objectives using audience response technology and surveys that can assist us in measuring grower knowledge gain. We will track the number of growers accessing our virtual materials and survey actively supported growers for changes in practices and financial benefits.

    Performance targets from proposal:

    200 diversified vegetable growers will learn to recognize disorders, pests, and diseases of brassica leafy greens and 100 of these will improve their pest/disease scouting and management skills, resulting in 50 producers adopting brassica pest/disease scouting and effective management techniques, affecting 6 acres. They report 10% improvement in marketable crop yields. 300 mixed vegetable growers in the Northeast will know which experts to contact for information about optimizing arugula and brassica leafy green production. 10 Seed producers, technicians, and distributers will understand the risk of this seedborne pathogen and 5 will select resistant germplasm to market based on this work.

    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.