Michigan Asparagus Industry Research Priorities

Submitted by:
Michigan Asparagus Research, Inc.
12800 Escanaba Dr. Suite A
DeWitt, MI 48820

Contact person / Submitter: John Bakker

Top 4 Priorities

1. Priority

  • Lessen the economic impact of soil and foliar disease pests through improved control or reduced impacts of soil-borne pathogens such as:- Fusarium Crown and Root Rot and Phytophthora Crown and Root Rot
  • Development of a predictive model for asparagus rust

Estimated Economic impact

  • These two pathogens have combined for estimated yield losses of 25 -35 % of potential yields annually. Most new asparagus fields are established on ground previously planted to the crop due to the lack of new or "virgin" ground. Due to residual soil pathogens the yield potential of these fields is 70% of new ground. Over the life (15 years) of the field these pathogens account for yield losses in excess of 10,000 lbs. / acre with a farm gate value of $7000. Phytophthora root and crown rot was identified in Michigan in the spring of 2004 (Hausbeck, MSU). Since then the total yield in the state has dropped from just under 30 million lbs. (2003) to just over 20 million lbs. (2005) representing over $5 million in lost revenue (farm gate) in 2005 alone.
  • Purple spot and Asparagus Rust are two significant foliar diseases of asparagus in Michigan. An effective disease predictive model for Purple Spot has been developed and is widely used in timing fungicide applications. Climatic conditions favoring the development of asparagus Rust are different than those of Purple Spot. The development of a similar predictive model for Rust would allow growers to fully implement a cost-effective IPM program for foliar diseases.

Short or Long Term

This is a long term priority. Industry funds have been used in the past to leverage some outside support.

2. Priority

Improved yields through new or innovative cultural practices such as:

  • Irrigation
  • Healthier crowns or transplants
  • New planting techniques
  • Higher yielding varieties
  • Field preparation strategies for replant fields

Estimated Economic impact

The survival of the Michigan asparagus industry is dependent on our ability to improve per acre yields especially on replant ground. Improved yields will enable Michigan asparagus growers to compete with imports from countries with significantly lower labor and production costs. Estimated economic impact is $30 million annually.

Short or Long Term

This is a long term priority. MARC has funded some cultural practices work annually.


3. Priority

Develop effective control measures for Asparagus Beetles

  1. Increase knowledge of pest biology, especially overwintering behavior
  2. Determine efficacy (possible resistance) of labeled insecticides
  3. Develop new cultural practices or biological controls that will lessen the impact of this pest, especially during the harvest season.
  4. Develop strategies that will reduce pesticide applications during the harvest season. 

Estimated Economic impact:
Asparagus Beetles cause damage to asparagus throughout the growing season. Overwintering adults feed and lay eggs on spears during the harvest season and both adults and larva can defoliate fern during the summer months. Asparagus beetle eggs on spears are a cause for load rejection if they exceed 2% for processing and even lower levels are tolerated for fresh asparagus. Harvest season insecticide applications are troublesome due to frequency of harvest, worker re-entry periods and pre-harvest intervals. Beetle eggs on harvested spears are the number one cause of rejected loads and even field abandonment. Estimated impact is $5 million annually.

Short or Long Term:
This is a short term priority.

4. Priority

Improve Spear Quality to Retain and Expand Markets

  • Develop methods to detect and eliminate undesirable fiber in spears post-harvest 
  • Improve tip spear quality through improved cultivars or micro-climate modification

Estimated Economic impact

Fibrous asparagus is the #1 complaint of buyers of processed asparagus. Poor tip quality is the #1 complaint of fresh market buyers. Michigan’s $30 million (value added) industry is jeopardized without significant quality improvements.

Short or Long Term

This is a long term priority.


Last Updated: December 2018

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