July Update From the NC Alternative Crops & Organics Program

— Written By

7/28/20 – Written by Margaret Bloomquist, Research Associate, and Katie Learn, Research Assistant in the North Carolina Alternative Crops and Organics Program

Consistent 85-65° temperature splits and afternoon storms roll us into the end of July. We love hearing about what’s going on on your farms. Thank you for sharing in our virtual journey of what’s happening in Jeanine Davis’s program this summer!


The organic cowpea variety trial is beginning to sprout. It was planted last week at the Mountain Organic Unit of the Mountain Research Station in Waynesville, NC. We are evaluating 11 varieties and their associated insects. This is part of the Southeast Organic Partnership with Tuskegee University.

Woman planting broccoli transplant in field

We transplanted 23 broccoli lines and varieties to evaluate them for stress tolerance and quality as part of our ongoing Eastern Broccoli Project with Cornell University. This photo was taken July 15th, 2020 at the Mountain Research Station.

A hand holding a freshly cut broccoli head over the plant

Harvests were recently completed for our 2020 on-farm broccoli yield trial. Five new public lines and one private breeding line produced beautiful heads in the midst of the summer heat. Quality was comparable with the market standard “Emerald Crown.” This trial is another component of the Eastern Broccoli Project. Thank you to Irma’s Produce for hosting! The non-profit, Bounty and Soul received the extra produce.

Hop cones on a hop plant

Our hops breeder, Dr. Luping Qu, is excited about the number of cones this new cross has produced. Several important factors he considers when choosing plants to breed for our region is side-arm length, internode length, disease resistance, cone yield, and brewing quality. We have several on-station and a number of on-farm trials of his latest selections for the Southeast region. Look forward to releases expected in the coming years.

Young floral hemp plants on white plastic mulch in the field

A view of the western NC State University hemp floral strain trial in early July. Flower initiation is ongoing for select varieties (strains). We are seeing variation between strains and are gathering interesting information during our weekly data collection. This study is located in Buncombe County, in partnership with Green River Botanicals. Check out one of the other eastern locations of the NC State University hemp strain trial via this Facebook post with Dr. David Suchoff.

Goldenseal plant in the woods with a ripe berry

Goldenseal, (Hydrastis canadensis) berries are ripening in our research woods in western North Carolina. Several of the populations have been harvested and re-seeded for propagation and for future distribution and education. For information on our Woodland Stewards program, contact Margaret_Bloomquist@ncsu.edu. This project is associated with the Appalachian Beginning Forest Farming Coalition.