Breakthrough in developing fast-growing broccoli

Scientists at the John Innes Centre (JIC) in the UK are developing a new line of fast-growing broccoli that goes from seed to harvest in 8-10 weeks.

It has the potential to deliver two full crops a season in-field or it can be grown all year round in protected conditions.

This could reportedly help with continuity of supply, as growers would no longer be reliant on seasonal weather conditions.

Dr Judith Irwin, one of the scientists working on the project,  said, “We harnessed our knowledge of how plants regulate the flowering process, to remove the requirement for a period of cold temperature and bring this new broccoli line to harvest faster.

This means growers could turn around two field-based crops in one season, or if the broccoli is grown in protected conditions, 4-5 crops in a year.

In addition to having a short growing period, there is the opportunity to move production of broccoli into urban farms, enabling reductions in the carbon footprint of food production and supply.

Dr Jonathan Clarke, Head of Business Development at JIC, said, “The continuity of food production is being challenged by changes in our climate. Here at the John Innes Centre we have been challenging the way people think about how we produce food.

“As part of this approach, we are considering the potential of moving some forms of food production into contained horticultural production systems – these could range from simple glasshouses or growth rooms to more complex vertical farms.

This new line of broccoli could be grown in such systems, under LED lights. This would overcome the problem of seasonality and dependence on imported crops.

The new broccoli line developed at the JIC is one of a number that have been selected to address this issue and, also, as a step towards climate-proofing our crops.

In order for this experimental line to move towards commercialisation, the next steps involve flavour and nutritional analysis and performance testing in commercial growing conditions.