NC Commissioner Steve Troxler: Research on Purple Carrots

There is some interesting research work going on in the state on purple carrots that may lead to a potential market for farmers down the road. Some of the research efforts are looking at the carrots as a potential natural dye, which could be a new market.

  • The department has been funding projects looking at bioenergy ideas as well as new and emerging crops, thanks to the General Assembly.
  • Annually, we have funded $1 million in research projects in these specific areas with the hope that this research could lead to new opportunities for farmers. Half of the funding goes to bioenergy crops and half go to new and emerging crop research.
  • Bringing a new crop to market typically takes a lot of trying and failing and trying again and trying again and trying again. It takes considerable time to develop new plant varieties and sometimes even new production practices.
  • Research evaluates things like pests, weed control, harvest techniques, planting techniques to offer best practice information to farmers who decide to plant a new crop.
  • One of the funded projects that seems to hold promise is the production of purple carrots with the potential to grow them for natural dyes.
  • There is growing interest in natural dyes, especially after the European Union established new rules about dyes. The idea is that purple carrots could eventually provide a natural purple dye.
  • We have research trials on several research station sites and the N.C. Biotechnology Center has partnered on this project as well to further try to develop this economically, and there are companies interested in this research and developing additional trials for purple carrots.
  • In addition, the N.C. Food Innovation Lab in Kannapolis has evaluated the qualities of each colorant produced to determine which would be best suited for companies to use.
  • I think it is exciting to have business interest in this project and the collaboration among so many partner groups.
  • I hope this collaboration may lead to a market opportunity for farmers soon.
  • In addition to dyes, research indicates there could be other markets for purple carrots, including being a colorful alternative fresh vegetable.
  • Other new and emerging crop projects that received funding this year include hemp, purple sweet potatoes, Oriental crisp-flesh melons (similar to a Sprite melon that is no longer available), Goumi berries, ethnic crops and muscadines.
  • Hopefully, we have some good results with these crops in the very near future.