OSU irrigation research boosts carrot seed production

Carot seed harvest
Central Oregon produces almost all of the carrot seed in the U.S. (Photo: Lynn Ketchum)

Drip irrigation also cuts water use in half and increases germination

Water is a prized commondity for farmers in central Oregon, which produces about 85 percent of the hybrid carrot seed planted in the United States.

To conserve water, scientists at OSU's Central Oregon Agricultural Research Center have helped growers transition from traditional overhead sprinklers to a system that delivers a trickle of water directly to plant roots.

It turns out, the switch has an upside. After four years of experiments, researchers report that this drip irrigation cut water use in half, increased seed yields by an average of 22 percent, and improved germination by up to 5 percent. Although more studies are needed, they also expect that drip irrigation could reduce Xanthomonas, a leaf-rotting blight that can spread when sprinklers splash bacteria onto neighboring plants. Thanks in part to OSU’s research, about three-quarters of the more than 4,000 acres of carrot seed in central Oregon is now drip irrigated. Seeds produced with drip irrigation also fetch higher prices because quality and yield are more consistent than with sprinkler-irrigated seeds.

Source: Marv Butler, researcher at COARC; Jefferson County Seed Growers Association; Brad Holliday, a field representative for Central Oregon Seeds

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