Availability of asparagus varieties for commercial production in Michigan

Which asparagus varieties are available to the Michigan industry, and what do we know about them?

Growers can now choose from a number of all-male asparagus hybrids suitable for Michigan conditions. Matching a variety to your particular soil condition, location and intended market are important considerations when projecting field productivity, longevity and profitability. Under good conditions, available hybrids are capable of producing annual yields in the range of 3,500-4,500 pounds per acre four to 10 years after planting. What else do we know about available hybrids?

Asparagus hybrids available for Michigan

  • ‘UG Millennium,’ Fox Seeds
  • ‘Jersey Giant,’ Walker Bros.
  • ‘Jersey Supreme,’ Walker Bros.
  • ‘Jersey Knight,’ Walker Bros.
  • ‘Mondeo,’ Vilmorin
  • ‘Sequoia,’ Vilmorin
  • ‘Porthos,’ Vilmorin

‘UG Millennium’ is a Canadian variety developed by the University of Guelph and commercialized by Fox Seeds. Plantings of ‘Millennium’ have excellent longevity and yields. While all asparagus hybrids do best in well-drained sites, grower experience suggests ‘UG Millennium’ can grow in slightly heavier soils than Jersey hybrids, but may be less suitable for very light and well-drained soils due to its shallower root system. During hot weather, ‘Millennium’ may produce “loose heads” quicker than Jersey hybrids. ‘Millennium’ is more susceptible to foliar diseases, including purple spot and rust, than Jersey hybrids. This hybrid is less prone to fall frost damage than some Jersey varieties as it removes nutrients from the fern to the roots and senesces quicker in response to late fall weather (i.e., it is less likely to be green during the first fall frost).

‘Jersey Giant,’ ‘Jersey Knight’ and ‘Jersey Supreme’ were developed by the Rutgers University breeding program. Grower experience suggests these varieties are better suited to excessively well-drained soils than ‘UG Millennium,’ but may not perform as well on soils with higher clay content that drain slower. Tips of Jersey hybrid spears remain tighter during hot weather than tips of ‘UG Millennium.’ ‘Jersey Giant’ has been more tolerant of asparagus purple spot and rust than ‘UG Millennium’ in research trials. Seed is produced by Walker Brothers, Inc.

Vilmorin Inc. produces seed of relatively new hybrids that are being planted by some Michigan growers. Yields of ‘Mondeo’ were good and similar to ‘UG Millennium’ after seven years of harvest at the Michigan Asparagus Industry Research Farm; this variety is best suited for a processing market. Vilmorin also released two newer hybrids from plant material developed by the Rutgers University breeding program, ‘Porthos’ and ‘Sequoia.’ Yield data from Michigan research is not available for these hybrids. However, the female parent of ‘Porthos’ is the same as ‘Jersey Giant,’ and the female parent of ‘Seqouia’ was discovered in west Michigan.

To learn more about asparagus varietal performance and production in general, attend Michigan State University Extension’s 2015 Oceana Asparagus Day on March 12, 2015, in New Era, Michigan. 

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