As the total ban on methyl bromide approaches, commodities are scrambling to find alternatives.

Carrot is one of the commodities that seem to be ahead of the curve.

Philipp Simon, USDA-ARS geneticist and vegetable crops researcher based at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, said new germplasm resistant to root knot nematodes is being developed rapidly and given to private carrot breeders to preclude the need for methyl bromide.

Many of those breeders and field men quizzed Simon recently at the annual carrot tasting at the USDA's California trials at the University of California Desert Research and Extension Center in Holtville, Calif.

“We are making good progress on nematode resistance,” said Simon. “We have experimental hybrids where at least one parent is resistant to root knot nematodes and are providing germplasm to breeders.”

Cavity spot

Cavity spot resistance is another goal of Simon and other carrot breeders. Unfortunately, said Simon selecting for resistance to that disease is more tricky because often the disease is not widespread in a field and just because a carrot does not show symptoms, does not mean it's resistant. It simply may have escaped the causal agent.

The Holtville trial include both the cello carrots as well as baby carrot varieties.

“This is a great place to test carrots,” said John Guerard, agronomist for Wm Bolthouse Farms, Bakersfield. “For some reason Imperial Valley produces the sweetest carrots.”

While packout and uniformity in length and shoulders are keys in selecting new varieties, taste is the final test as evidenced by those judging the almost 150 varieties dug for the annual tasting that has been taking place in the desert for more than 25 years.

The trial was sponsored by the California Fresh Carrot Board.

e-mail: hcline@primediabusiness.com