Mother Stalk Aspargus Production System

Gordon Johnson, Extension Ag Agent, Kent Co.; gcjohn@udel.edu

There is a potential for extended production of asparagus using the mother stalk production system. With this system, it is possible to harvest from spring through fall. This would be of benefit to direct marketers providing sales out of the normal harvest season.

In a normal asparagus production system, all spears are harvested for the first 6-8 weeks (in a mature stand) and then the field is allowed to go to the fern stage. The harvest period is from late April to early June. In the mother stalk production system, three shoots are allowed to reach full maturity (go to fern stage) from the start and all subsequent spears are harvested throughout the season from late April until October. The mature mother plants produce enough food reserves to replenish the crown and provide for spear production. Originally developed in Asia, the system has shown to have no effect on the long-term health of asparagus crowns. Researchers at Rutgers have tested the mother stalk system and have also found it to work in our area. The key is to start with a mature stand (4 or more years old) and to maintain the mother stalks in good health. More than 3 mother stalks will reduce spear production, fewer than 3 will not produce enough reserves to maintain the crowns.

Peak production period is April-June with another peak in September and October. In July and August, production is low. However, you still need to check daily for spear emergence and harvest during this period. Growers will have to decide if they have the labor to manage such a system throughout a 6-7 month growing season.

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