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North Carolina is a leading producer of fresh and processed vegetable commodities in the United States.  Its highly diverse production climates and soil types, make it ideal for the production of many economically important vegetables.  The sale of these commodities contributes over $0.5 billion dollars to the North Carolina economy, in addition to the value of the jobs and support industry sales required to grow, harvest, pack and distribute this yield to markets both domestic and international.  North Carolina is ranked in the top ten of states producing sweet potatoes, cucumbers, tomatoes, peppers, pumpkins, squash, cabbage, watermelons, and sweet corn.

The department of horticultural science supports these industries through targeted applied research programs in production, vegetable breeding, food safety, harvest and postharvest operations.  This multidisciplinary group connects with the vegetable industry through participation on advisory boards, where the needs of the industry for research based information are prioritized.  It is through this approach that research priorities are developed and targeted to meet the needs of these growers.

Preharvest, Breeding, and Production

tomatoes preharvest production
Tomatoes preharvest data recording

Program efforts at the preharvest and harvest stages of crop production focus on maximizing crop yield and quality and minimizing inputs and the impact of production on the environment.  The overall goal of these efforts is the economic sustainability of fresh vegetable producers and the health and safety of people who consume this produce.


Postharvest physiology and technology for vegetable production focuses on improving storage methods and practices to extend shelf life and quality.  The key effort in this area aims to determine the role of vegetable crops in human health, maximizing storage technology to enhance functional food compounds and identify and quantify those compounds with health-related impact.  Additionally, the enhancement of consumer appeal characteristics such as flavor, color, texture, and antioxidant compounds are key research priorities.  The goal of these efforts is to maximize vegetable quality and functionality for both the marketer and the consumer.


Research in these highly diverse production systems, environments, and vegetable commodities, requires multidisciplinary teams and partnerships in order to serve the needs of the vegetable production community.  This effort includes key partnerships and participation with multiple departments within NC State University and with growers associations across the state.

NC State University Partnerships

External Partners