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The carrot, or daucus carota, is a member of the Umbelliferae or (parsley) family along with celery, fennel, cumin, and dill. Carrots were reportedly first grown in Rome in the third century, then in Afghanistan before being cultivated by the Dutch.

Early varieties were purple until the ‘modern’ orange version was cultivated in the Netherlands. There are dozens of carrot varieties worldwide in several widths, lengths, and colors. Color variations other than orange include white, yellow, reddish-hued, purple, and nearly black.

Types & Varieties
Carrots are classified based on both their length and shape: Imperator are long with thin shoulders and a tapered tip; Danvers are large and generally medium length; Nantes are also medium in length but with a rounded tip; and Chantenay are short and broad shouldered.

Popular cultivars by size include Orbit and Thumbelina for small, round carrots; Baby Spike, Littlefinger, Minicor, and Short ’n Sweet for baby carrots; Red-Cored and Royal for Chantenay; Half-Long and 126 for Danvers; Bolero, Ingot, Coreless, Scarlet, Sweetness, and Touchon for Nantes; and Avenger, Gold Pak, Legend, Orlando Gold, and Tendersweet for Imperator.

References: Agricultural Marketing Resource Center, University of Illinois Extension, Washington State University Extension.

CULTIVATION

Carrots are a biennial crop with an edible taproot in the first year. Frost tolerant, carrots are often one of the first crops planted in the spring. Plants are direct seeded into moderately acidic sandy loam with adequate moisture retention. Windbreaks are recommended if soil is at risk of blowing and damaging seedlings.

If the soil forms a crust after rains, carrots may have trouble breaking through. Planting with radishes can alleviate this problem. It is also advised to thoroughly plow soil for proper taproot development.

Carrots grow best in warm, moist conditions. To retain moisture and warmth, carrots are sometimes covered with polyethylene film before germination. Raised beds can facilitate drainage. During the summer, shade may be necessary to prevent seedlings from burning.

Carrots are fairly resilient; some varieties can be harvested after the first frost before the ground freezes solid. Crops can be harvested by hand or mechanically.

Tops should be removed completely to prevent disease and respiration, which can lead to reduced quality. Bunched carrots (with tops) are more perishable than topless carrots.

Carrots Seasonal Availability Chart

Pests & Diseases
Aphids can damage crops throughout production; insects will feed on the carrot and serve as a vector for other diseases. Rootknot nematodes feed on roots, causing stunted growth and deformation. Populations are typically largest around harvest time.

To control the carrot rust fly, experts recommend eradicating weeds as a common breeding place. Avoid crop rotation with other susceptible vegetables such as parsnips and celery.

Other harmful pests include beetles, caterpillars, crickets, fire ants, fleahoppers, leafhoppers, spittlebugs, stink bugs, thrips, weevils, and whiteflies, all of which can be particularly damaging to seeds and in all stages of plant development.

Pythium blight may result in stubbing, root forking, dieback, or the growth of white mycelium fungus that may develop into watery soft rot under moist conditions. Rhizoctonia is a bacterial infection that causes brownish-black lesions on the taproot. The disease is exacerbated by wet, cool conditions and is best prevented by crop rotation and good agricultural practices.

Cavity spot is soilborne and may lead to loss of an entire crop. It can be identified by brown, water-soaked lesions that expand and dry as the carrot matures. Cavity rot is more likely in fields with prior carrot or alfalfa plantings.

Other diseases include anthracnose, leaf black root, canker, damping off, leaf spot, mold (grey, white), mosaic viruses, root knot, root rot, and types of scab.

Storage & Packaging
Cool water washes and hydrocooling are necessary to remove field heat after harvest. Carrots will dry out quickly, with white striations appearing on the outside surface as moisture is lost. Topped carrots should be stored in 95 to 100% humidity at 32°F. Carrots are also sensitive to ethylene, which will cause bitterness.

Due to having similar storage requirements, carrots can be stored in mixed loads with other vegetables such as asparagus, broccoli, cauliflower, lettuce, radishes, and spinach among others.

References: North Carolina State University Extension, University of California Vegetable Research & Information Center, University of Florida/IFAS Extension, University of Georgia Extension, University of Illinois Extension, USDA, Washington State University Extension.

GRADES & GOOD ARRIVAL

Carrots are classified into topped or bunched with additional requirements for grade levels. For topped, U.S. Extra No. 1 require a diameter of not less than .75 inches or more than 1.5 inches with a length of not less than 5 inches; U.S. No. 1 are the same as for Extra No. 1 except it is possible to specify sizes both within and outside of the diameter range, and lengths both longer and shorter than 5 inches.

For U.S. No. 1 Jumbo carrots, requirements include a diameter not less than 1 inch or more than 2.5 inches, with a minimum length of 5 inches; U.S. No. 2 require a diameter 1 to 3 inches with a minimum length of 3 inches.

For bunched carrots, U.S. No. 1 requires a diameter of at least .75 inches unless otherwise specified, and the length of tops to be no more than 20 inches unless otherwise specified. High-quality carrots will be firm, straight, brightly colored, hairless (no root hairs), moist, and free from green shoulders or bitterness.


Generally speaking, the percentage of defects shown on a timely government inspection certificate should not exceed the percentage of allowable defects, provided: (1) transportation conditions were normal; (2) the USDA or CFIA inspection was timely; and (3) the entire lot was inspected.

CARROTS (BUNCHED)

U.S. Grade Standards Days Since Shipment % of Defects Allowed Optimum Transit Temp. (F)
10-5-1 5
4
3
2
1
15-8-3
14-8-3
13-7-2
12-6-1
10-5-1
32°

CARROTS (TOPPED)

U.S. Grade Standards Days Since Shipment % of Defects Allowed Optimum Transit Temp. (F)
10-5-2 5
4
3
2
1
15-8-4
14-8-4
13-7-3
12-6-2
10-5-2
32°

There are no good arrival guidelines specific to Canada for bunched carrots; there are guidelines for topped carrots—unless otherwise noted, they are broken down into five parts as follows: maximum percentage of defects, maximum percentage of permanent defects, maximum percentage for any single permanent defect, maximum percentage for any single condition defect, and maximum for decay. Canadian destination guidelines are 15-10-5-10-4.

References: DRC, PACA, USDA.

INSPECTOR’S INSIGHTS

• There are size requirements for carrots: unless otherwise specified, U.S. No. 1 Topped Carrots shall be not less than 1 inch, or more than 3 inches in diameter, or less than 3 Inches in length
• Air cracks or fresh cracks are scored as a defect when the length of the crack exceeds 20% of the total carrot length, is deeper than 1/4 inch, or is wider than 1/8 inch
• New root growth or top growth (on topped carrots) is scored as a condition defect when materially affecting the appearance. As a guide, new top growth is scored as a defect when the length of new growth is greater than 1 inch in length.

Source: Tom Yawman, International Produce Training, www.ipt.us.com.


This information is for your personal, noncommercial use only.