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HORT410 - Vegetable Crops

Asparagus - Notes

Harvested Asparagus Spears, David Rhodes

  • Common name: Asparagus.
  • Latin name: Asparagus officinalis L. var. altilis.
  • Family: Asparagaceae (Liliaceae) [Liliaceae Images].
  • Monocotyledon.
  • Perennial.
  • Harvested organ: spears.
  • "asparagus" may derive from Greek "aspharagos" [ = "sprout" or "shoot"].
  • Origin: coastal areas of Asia, Africa and Europe.
  • First cultivated by Romans ~ 2,000 years ago.
  • Brought to N. America by European settlers.
  • Asparagus history (TAMU).
  • Cool season, cold hardy.
  • Dioecious [male and female flowers on separate staminate and pistillate plants, respectively].
  • Propagation: seed or 1-year-old crowns used as transplants.
  • Soil pH optimum: 6.0 - 7.0.
  • Optimum growth temperature: 16 to 24 C.
  • First harvest after 2 or 3 years.
  • Plantings may produce for 15 to 20 years.
  • Spears harvested when ~ 13 to 25 cm.
  • Spears cut with a knife or snapped off by hand.
  • Harvested spears best stored at 3 to 4 C.
  • If not harvested, spears develop into ferns.
  • Ferns are modified stems or cladophylls.
  • True leaves are scale-like structures at the tip of the spear and down the stem.
  • Cladophylls develop from leaf (scale) axes.
  • Cladophylls give rise to flowers.
  • Insect pollinated. Asparagus Flowers, David Rhodes
  • Female flowers produce red berries.
  • Male plants more productive than female plants.
  • Breeding has emphasized the development of male varieties with disease (primarily rust) resistance.
  • Hybrid varieties have greater vigor, disease resistance and yields than open-pollinated varieties.
  • Crop rotation cannot be used to control insect and disease pests.
  • Major diseases of asparagus in the Midwest:
      Fusarium crown and root rot
      Cercospora leaf spot
      rust (some varieties have rust resistance)
  • For Fusarium crown and root rot control:
      use certified, disease-free crowns
      avoid fields with a history of the disease
      carefully manage soil pH, fertility and drainage
      Fusarium crown and root rot promoted by low pH, poor drainage, and infertile soil
      hybrids are more tolerant to Fusarium than open-pollinated varieties
  • Major insect pests of asparagus in the Midwest:

    Common Asparagus Beetle Adult, David Rhodes Common Asparagus Beetle Eggs, David Rhodes Common Asparagus Beetle Larva, David Rhodes

    (see: ID-56: Midwest Vegetable Production Guide for Commercial Growers 2003 - Asparagus (PURDUE) [pdf] for a description of hybrid varieties, planting, spacing, cultivating, harvesting, fertilizing, and specific disease, weed and insect control recommendations for asparagus in the Midwest)

    Sources of information:

  • Grafius, E., Hutchinson, B. Asparagus. In "Vegetable Insect Management With Emphasis on the Midwest", (ed. R. Foster, B. Flood), Meister Publishing Co., Willoughby, Ohio, pp. 147 - 156 (1995).
  • Nonnecke, I.L. "Vegetable Production", Van Nostrand Reinhold, NY (1989).
  • Phillips, R., Rix, M. "The Random House Book of Vegetables", Random House, NY (1993).
  • Maynard, D.N. Asparagus. In "The Software Toolworks Multimedia Encyclopedia", Version 1.5, Grolier, Inc. (1992).
  • Midwest Vegetable Production Guide for Commercial Growers, ID-56, eds. R. Foster, D. Egel, E. Maynard, R. Weinzierl, H. Taber, L.W. Jett, B. Hutchinson, Purdue University Cooperative Extension Service, 2003.
  • Kotecha, P.M., Kadam, S.S. Asparagus. In "Handbook of Vegetable Science and Technology: Production, Composition, Storage, and Processing", (ed. D.K. Salunkhe, S.S. Kadam), Marcel Dekker, Inc., NY, pp. 511 - 521 (1998).

    www www.hort.purdue.edu
  • David Rhodes
    Department of Horticulture & Landscape Architecture
    Horticulture Building
    625 Agriculture Mall Drive
    Purdue University
    West Lafayette, IN 47907-2010
    Last Update: 01/21/09