About the Carrot Improvement for Organic Agriculture Project

Carrot Improvement for Organic Agriculture (CIOA) is a long-term breeding project that addresses the critical needs of organic carrot farmers by developing orange and novel colored carrots with improved disease and nematode resistance, improved weed competitiveness, and improved nutritional value and flavor.

This project will also compare the relative performance of breeding material in organic versus conventional environments and investigate whether some carrot varieties perform better under organic soil conditions.

Organic growers require vegetable varieties that are adapted to organic growing conditions and hold market qualities demanded by the organic consumer including superior nutrition and exceptional flavor. In carrots, work has been done to identify and breed for nutritionally superior varieties across multiple color classes including orange, red, purple and yellow. These varieties are in high demand and in a high value crop, however much of this germplasm has not been improved for organic systems in general. Organic producers need varieties that germinate rapidly with good seedling vigor, compete with weeds, resist pests, are efficient at nutrient uptake and are broadly adapted to organic growing conditions. The Carrot Improvement for Organic Agriculture project will deliver improved carrot varieties; improved understanding of the farming systems influence (organic vs. conventional) on variety performance; and develop a breeding model adaptable to other crops for organic systems. 

While significant progress has been made in carrot breeding to improve nutritional value, flavor, and disease resistance for conventional production systems, the majority of the conventional U.S. crop is threatened due to loss of chemical fumigants and sprays to control nematodes and alternaria leaf blight, and organic production has no obvious means for economical carrot production when either of these pests threaten the crop.