Approximately 85% of the hybrid carrot seed planted in the United States is grown in Jefferson and adjoining counties. The Madras and Culver areas support most of the carrot seed production, which is supplied to the domestic fresh market and exported to Europe and Japan.

The production area, situated at an elevation of 2,000 to 2,500 feet, creates favorable conditions for carrot and other seed production. Rainfall and humidity are low. Nighttime temperatures are cool and summer day temperatures are moderate. The area is also absent of wild carrot, which can cross-pollinate seeds and contaminate the crop.

Seed carrots are grown in shallow, well-drained soil and are either grown from seed planted in August or from roots, called stecklings, planted in the spring. Most of the carrot seed is hybrid, with male and female plants that cross-pollinate through honeybees to increase seed vigor. Slightly more than half of the acres are irrigated by sprinkler, the rest by furrow or drip systems. Production on rolling terrain was limited until the introduction of drip irrigation. Drip systems provide adequate water, without runoff and erosion.

The male plants are knocked down prior to harvest of the females, which usually occurs in September. Harvesting carrot seed can be challenging because of the three different umbel orders. The primary/king umbel matures first, followed by the secondary umbel, then the tertiary umbel. Carrot fields are swathed when the primary and secondary umbels have browned, but before the tertiary umbels have matured. The swathed rows are dried for three to ten days before they are combined. The seed is then trucked to a seed contractor, which cleans the seed to remove spines and other particles.

2011 Acres Planted: 4265
2011 Yield Per Acre: 345 Pounds
2011 Gross: $18,363,384

Trivia

  • Mini-peeled carrots, or ‘baby’ carrots, were introduced in 1989. Since then, carrot consumption in the U.S. has quadrupled to almost 11 lbs. per person annually.
  • Carrots originated 3,000 years ago in the area of Afghanistan.
  • Carrots first use was medicinal. Ancient Greek physicians prescribed carrot root and juices to treat cancer, indigestion, snake bites and skin ulcers.
  • In the Middle Ages, feathery carrot leaves were placed in a woman’s hair as decoration and carrot juice was used to enhance the color of butter.
  • Carrots are members of the umbelliferous family, which includes parsley, celery, parsnips, caraway, fennel and dill.
  • The wild carrot is called Queen Anne’s lace.

Jefferson County Seed Growers Association | website by chachkagroup