Thomas Bjorkman, professor of horticulture at Cornell University poses with an heirloom style broccoli he is researching to understand available broccoli genes for breeding purposes. ( Courtesy Allison Usavage/Cornell University )

Eight years into the 10-year Eastern Broccoli Project, the broccoli industry in the eastern U.S. is valued at $90 million and the project is expected to meet a $100-million goal.

Even with the growth of the number of broccoli farms, nearly 85% of broccoli consumed on the East Coast is shipped from California or Mexico, according to a news release.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has funded the project for eight universities and 11 companies, according to the release.

One challenge has been finding varieties of broccoli that can grow in in the eastern U.S. summer rather than the cooler Mediterranean climates the winter vegetable was originally cultivated in, according to the release.

Different temperatures can determine how broccoli heads grow and look, according to the release. Eastern-adapted varieties can have lighter color or larger flower buds.

Researchers found consumers prefer broccoli to look like the western varieties, despite being sourced locally, according to the release.

For this reason, several hybrids of broccoli have recently been commercialized to highlight important traits, according to the release.

The projects’ scientists are set to work with companies and farmers of the hybrids to keep seeds in use and reach the $100-million goal, according to the release.

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