Cracking of carrot (Daucus carota L.) roots during harvest and handling is a serious problem for the commercial industry, particularly for `cut and peeled' products. Thirty commercial fields of cv. `Sugar Snax' in California were surveyed over the period 2000-03. Soil texture was determined, and soil and crop nutrient status, air temperature and soil moisture were monitored. In 10 fields the effect of excessive N fertilization was investigated; 90-180 kg·ha-1 N was sidedressed in addition to the growers' N regime. At one site a comparison of 10 cultivars was conducted to determine the root cracking sensitivity of commercial cultivars suitable for the cut and peeled market. In all fields roots were hand harvested, with undamaged roots 18-24 mm in diameter selected for study. Roots were cooled to 5 °C and subjected to an impact test to rate cracking sensitivity. Fields varied widely in root cracking sensitivity, with 4% to76% of roots cracked in the impact test. Cracking sensitivity was positively correlated with the % silt and clay in soil, and with air temperature in the final month of growth. Irrigation management had no consistent effect on cracking sensitivity. N application in excess of the growers' N regime did not increase carrot yield, but increased root cracking sensitivity by an average of 30%. Root cracking varied among cultivars from 10% to 49%. However, when the periderm was peeled from roots before impact testing, incidence of cracking declined to 2% or less in all cultivars. Periderm strength or flexibility is apparently the dominant factor in carrot cracking sensitivity, and environmental and management variables that affect cracking sensitivity must do so by affecting the periderm structure.