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Central Oregon is the primary US hybrid carrot seed production area, supplying seed to the domestic fresh market carrot industry. Approximately 55% of the US domestic market carrot variety seed production is grown in Jefferson County, and an additional 10% in Crook and Deschutes Counties. In addition 45% of the Global market carrot variety seed production is grown in Jefferson County. The Madras and Culver areas support most of the carrot seed production, with significant amounts of seed exported to Europe and Japan.
Most of the carrot seed is “hybrid”, with male and female plants that cross pollinate, through honeybees that are brought in, to increase seed vigor. You may notice the male and female rows separated by blank rows. The males are knocked down prior to harvest of the females. Slightly more than half of the acreage is irrigated by sprinkler, the rest by furrow or drip systems.
Carrots are either grown from seed planted in August or from roots, called ‘stecklings’ planted in the spring. Harvest generally takes place in September. Harvesting carrots can be a challenge because of the three different umbel orders. Carrot fields are swathed when the primary and secondary umbels have browned but before the tertiary umbels have matured. The swathed rows are then dried for 3-10 days before they are combined. Over 4200 acres of carrots were planted and harvested in 2012, yielding 345 pounds of seed an acre and grossing $18,363,384.