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Carrot seed is the dominant force in the central Oregon vegetable seed industry, with three fourths of the acreage and near ninety percent of the income. Other vegetable seed crops include garlic, coriander, parsley, and onions.
Factors which make central Oregon an important vegetable seed production area include climate, soil, and quality growers. Innovative seed production companies have helped refine production practices, provide scouting services, and oversight of bee management. Compared to most other crops, vegetable seed production requires more intense management. However, for the quality conscious grower it often provides an opportunity for higher income per acre than more traditional crops in the area.
Vegetable seed production in central Oregon began in the 1970’s with approximately 150 acres of carrots and onions. The carrots were largely grown from stecklings (baby carrot roots) which were grown outside the area during the winter and transplanted into local fields in the spring. By the late 1970’s and early 1980’s production began moving away from open pollinated varieties to hybrids of mostly imperator, nantes, and other carrot crosses. Since the 1980’s coriander, garlic, radish and a variety of other vegetable, herb and flower seed crops have been introduced into the area. With improved management techniques, yields and germination have continued to increase.
A field isolation map is managed by COARC to prevent problems with contamination from cross pollination, due to crops inadvertently being planted too close together.
Honey bees are important pollinators on central Oregon vegetable seed crops. This is particularly true of carrots, onions, and parsley, with adequate pollinators naturally attracted to coriander. Apiculture research to increase pollination efficiency is a priority activity of the COARC.