Clean seed program for garlic can reduce production costs for farmers
September 19, 2012
Research funded through the Farm Innovation Program has shown that using bulbils rather than cloves after tissue culture to remove pathogens can make the production of pathogen-free seed stock for the Ontario garlic industry much more economical for farmers.
Download the PDF of this article
How was the research conducted?
As part of the three-year project, researchers John Zandstra and Becky Hughes of the University of Guelph looked at adapting techniques used in California’s clean seed program to Ontario’s climate and garlic varieties. They evaluated how many bulbils a typical garlic plant can produce, as well as their size and how quickly they grow. They also investigated differences in row spacing to determine the best planting density for the bulbil seeds to produce a consistent crop of seed stock. Research was conducted in field in Ridgetown and in a lab setting in New Liskeard.
What did the research show?
Data from two years of research showed a typical Music variety garlic plant could produce 200-300 bulbils, making it very efficient at reproduction. Medium-sized garlic bulbs tended to produce a higher proportion of larger bulbils, which means growers do not have to save their largest bulbs for topset production. Zandstra and Hughes found a two-inch spacing of the bulbils – which are about the size of a grain of wheat – ideal for producing uniform seed stock.
What does this mean for farmers?
It has been difficult to get the tissue-cultured plants to produce bulbs in the greenhouse. Using bulbils increases seed production, which would result in a reduction in production costs, says Zandstra. When using bulbils, an additional year in the field is required to produce a marketable garlic bulb, so a typical garlic bulb containing six to eight cloves could yield up to 64 plants in two years, whereas using the vegetative bulbils increases this to approximately 200 plants.
“The cost of seed material is reduced by using bulbils,” explains Zandstra, adding that work is still underway to develop better propagation techniques for tissue-cultured garlic in greenhouse environments.
Where can I get more information?
More information on this research is available from the Garlic Growers of Ontario.
The Farm Innovation Program (FIP) was funded in part through Growing Forward, a federal-provincial-territorial initiative. The Agricultural Adaptation Council assists in the delivery of several Growing Forward programs in Ontario.