Impact of Forcing Summer Asparagus in Coastal South Carolina on Yield, Quality, and Recovery from Harvest Pressure

in Journal of the American Society for Horticultural Science
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  • 1 Coastal Research and Education Center, Department of Horticulture, Clemson University, 2865 Savannah Highway, Charleston, SC 29414

The objective of this study was to determine the effect of forcing summer asparagus (May to October) and age at first harvest after transplanting on yield and quality. Ten-week-old `UC 157 F1' asparagus seedlings were field-planted on Sept. 1986 and forced to emerge from 1988 to 1992 by mowing fern in separate replicated plots in May, June, July, August, September, or October. Forcing treatments were not spring-harvested. Forced yields were compared to normal spring harvests (emerging from January to April). Harvesting began for the first time ≈18 or 30 months after transplanting. Spring 1988 yields were greatest of all, but declined yearly for 5 years. Summer forcing in either July or August maintained acceptable yields through 1992. The warmer climate during summer forcing caused most plants to reach the prescribed cutting pressure (eight spears per plant) within a standard 6-week harvest season. Cooler temperatures during spring harvest seasons slowed spear emergence and prevented the plants from reaching prescribed cutting pressure. Forcing in May and June was too stressful to plant recovery after the harvest season by reducing fern regrowth and increasing plant death. Cooler temperatures during October forcing inhibited spear emergence. Forcing in September yielded less than forcing in July and August, but September asparagus would command higher market prices. There was no advantage at any harvest time to delay first harvests from 18 to 30 months after transplanting. Forcing in July through September has potential as an alternative enterprise in coastal South Carolina.

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