Managing diseases in microgreens

Microgreens could be described as the 100-yard dash of food crop production. Most are ready for harvest in less than 21 days. And because they have such a short shelf life, they’re sent off to restaurants, farmers markets and retail markets within days, if not hours, of harvest.

Unfortunately, if you’re not careful, things can go awry, causing you to veer off course. Here’s a few tips to make sure you cross the finish line in good shape.

Mighty microgreens 

Microgreens are edible seedlings grown to the first true leaf stage, according to Zachary Grant, extension educator, Local Food Systems and Small Farms, University of Illinois Extension. Microgreens have been popular with growers and consumers for a number of years now. Demand for microgreens has increased since being identified as a national trend in haute cuisine around 2006, according to Cheryl Kaiser and Matt Ernst from the University of Kentucky’s College of Agriculture, Food and Environment.

Health-conscious consumers and restaurant chefs are drawn to microgreens, which contain phytonutrients and plant metabolites, Grant says. They’re added to soups, salads, garnishes and smoothies and served at home and in restaurants. Because they have such a short shelf life, they’re typically not grown on a large scale and shipped for miles and miles like tomatoes, but rather sold directly to local markets, presenting an opportunity for smaller growers.

Because they are considered easy to grow by some and have such a short growth cycle, they can be grown between crops in a greenhouse. They can also be grown year-round in greenhouses and cold frames in warmer climates. Profit margins are fairly high as well. An ounce of microgreens costs about 25 cents to produce and sells for about a dollar per ounce at Whole Foods. Growers can expect to gross about $25 per square foot of microgreens, Grant says.


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