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Jersey asparagus varieties being discontinued - next steps

In summary: The producer of asparagus crowns for asparagus varieties Jersey Giant, Jersey Knight, and Jersey Supreme has stopped propagating these varieties. This means that for the most part, crowns of the "Jersey" varieties are no longer available for growers to order. Read on for recommendations on how to proceed with other varieties in 2021.


Asparagus spears thriving at Schmidt Farm in Preston, MN in May, 2020. Photo: Annie Klodd

We recently confirmed that Walker Brothers, the producer of Jersey asparagus crowns, has stopped propagating the Jersey Knight, Jersey Giant, and Jersey Supreme varieties. This information came through conversations with asparagus colleagues at Michigan State University and Nourse Farms.

While a handful of large retailers may still have limited stock of these varieties left for purchase, growers will no longer be able to source these varieties in general once that limited stock is sold. Walker Brothers has no plans to sell their existing breeding lines, so we do not anticipate a revival of these varieties. 

This came as a surprise to us, as previous information had suggested that these varieties would still be available for a couple more years. We understand that many Minnesota asparagus growers have been relying on these varieties, and that the discontinuation of the Jersey varieties may be seen as an inconvenience. 

Asparagus varieties to choose from

Several high performing hybrid asparagus varieties are still available for growers to order.

Millennium is the main green variety that we recommend for Minnesota growers at this point in time, and is the most thoroughly tested. Millennium has been grown in Minnesota for a number of years with success. A 2013 trial by Terry Nennich in northern Minnesota found that its yields surpassed the Jersey varieties by almost two-fold (Millennium: 2094 lbs/acre; Jersey Giant 1287 lb/acre; Jersey Knight 1233 lb/acre). 

Additionally, researchers in Michigan also report consistently higher yields from Millennium along with better stand longevity across extensive planted acreage. It is widely grown, from Northern Europe to the Pacific Northwest, with 8000 acres in western Michigan alone. According to Ben Werling, Michigan State University vegetable Extension Educator, Millennium is better adapted to cold climates than Jersey Giant or Jersey Supreme. It goes dormant earlier in the fall and wakes up more slowly in the spring, reducing the risk of late fall and early spring frost damage. This also has potential implications for asparagus beetle; ferns that go dormant earlier in the fall may be cut earlier, reducing the risk of asparagus beetle overwintering. Werling mentions that it may be slightly slower to ramp up to high yields, but then makes up for that by yielding heavily over a 15 year lifespan.

According to Werling and Carl Cantaluppi (retired asparagus researcher, North Carolina Extension), other varieties to consider in addition to Millennium include: 

  • Walker Deluxe
  • Eclipse
  • Sequioa
  • Spartacus
  • Pacific Challenger 2
  • Porthos
  • Greenox

All varieties listed above are hybrids. While open-pollinated varieties like Mary Washington, Martha Washington, and Purple Passion are also available, it is well known that open-pollinated asparagus varieties have lower yields and less consistent spear size than the hybrid options.  

What's next?

We are certainly interested in learning more about how these hybrid varieties compare when grown across Minnesota, specifically USDA zones 3 and 4. This presents an opportunity to trial asparagus varieties in Minnesota, although no formal plans for such a trial are currently in place. Since asparagus trials require daily harvest and data collection for around 6 weeks per year over multiple years, the logistics of collecting quality data for such a large endeavor must be carefully considered and weighed against other urgent research priorities. Collaborating with farms and/or partner organizations may open doors to this possibility.

If you require assistance finding where to order crowns for these varieties, you may contact Annie Klodd or Natalie Hoidal. Additionally, if you have experience growing any of these varieties, please do not hesitate to reach out and share your thoughts about them. 

Asparagus resources

If you are new to planting asparagus, you can find comprehensive information about planting and maintenance of asparagus stands in Extension's new asparagus guide. This guide is also available in a downloadable PDF format here.


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