National Carrot Cake Day would not be possible without its key ingredient. Learn more about crucial carrot research being conducted by Land-grant Universities, supported by USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA).
Early colonists brought carrots to North America. Today, fresh-market production has stood at more than $670 million annually over the years 2018 to 2020, according to USDA’s Economic Research Service.
Here are a few NIFA-funded research efforts to improve production capabilities and ensure sustainable domestic production of one of our nation’s favorite vegetables.
Working to Improve Irrigation Efficiency
As water scarcity increasingly becomes a more significant concern, University of California scientists are developing systems to provide accurate information on crop water use. They conducted water-use research over the last three years for carrots and 10 other agricultural commodities. Additionally, they set up a soil moisture-sensing network in critical production areas. Extension worked with growers to evaluate their farming practices, trained them in the advantages of sensor-based irrigation management, and encouraged improved irrigation management for enhanced yield production. According to California Extension, the work, supported by Smith-Lever capacity grant funding, encompassed nearly 50% of crops grown in the region and helped participating growers conserve water by 15% on average across various agricultural commodities. Learn more.
Improving Carrot Seed Quality
Carrots are among the five most consumed vegetables in the U.S. diet. However, carrot production is limited by slow and inconsistent germination. Seedlings of a single cultivar may take between 10 days to three weeks to emerge. Scientists with USDA’s Agricultural Research Service in Peoria, Illinois, are investigating possible links between seed size and germination rates. Carrot breeders will use the work to enhance breeding programs. Supported by NIFA’s Agriculture and Food Research Initiative, the work will improve seed quality and in-field performance of carrot cultivars, both of which are central to USDA’s mission of ensuring safe, nutritious and secure food a supply. Learn more.
Helping Pollinators Thrive Helps Carrots and Other Crops Thrive
Honey bees are crucial pollinators for carrots and many other crops, but pest and disease problems are a significant threat to honey bees. Extension professionals and researchers at Oregon State University (OSU) are working to keep the state’s bee colonies healthy and thriving so they can pollinate the state’s crops. Supported by Smith-Lever capacity grant funding, OSU focuses on honey bee health, nutrition, and pollination. The lab is among the very few in the United States conducting both basic and applied research to understand and improve honey bee health by providing better nutrition. Learn more.