BC Seed Trials: Lacinato Kale Variety Trial 2016 (Brief)

Research Brief Publication Date: July 18, 2018
Last Updated: April 26, 2024

Dr. Alexandra Lyon, Centre for Sustainable Food Systems, University of British Columbia
Melanie Sylvestre, Centre for Sustainable Food Systems, University of British Columbia
Chris Thoreau, FarmFolk CityFolk
Shauna MacKinnon, FarmFolk CityFolk
Dr. Renee Prasad, University of Fraser Valley

Project Funders and Partners:

Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada & B.C. Ministry of Agriculture through programs delivered by the Investment Agriculture Foundation of B.C.

The Bauta Family Initiative on Canadian Seed Security

Farm Folk City Folk

Centre for Sustainable Food Systems at UBC Farm

University of the Fraser Valley


This brief is based on one year of variety trials data collection.


The goal of the BC Seed Trials is to engage farmers in producing knowledge relevant to seed systems development in British Columbia. These variety trials aim to identify superior crop varieties for fresh market farming and seed production. 

Lacinato (also called dinosaur or Tuscan) kale is prized for its appearance, good flavour, and tenderness when cooked. Although many seed companies offer heirloom varieties named “Lacinato,” these varieties are not all the same and may show significant variation for a number of traits. The varieties chosen for this trial represent distinct strains of lacinato which have been maintained or selected differently according to our correspondence with seed companies.

Priority characteristics for this trial included:

  • Deep green colour
  • Characteristic bubbled or “savoy” leaf texture
  • Long leaves that are not too narrow or too broad, and do not curl up at the tips
  • Open plant structure with minimal side sprouts
  • Tall plants for easier harvest and leaf protection from soil and pathogens
  • Ability to overwinter and produce a spring crop

Research Process

We used a Mother-Baby trial design, which pairs larger, researcher-managed trials with a group of farmer-managed trials on participating farms. The UBC Farm, which is certified organic, served as the “mother” site, while seven on-farm sites served as the “baby” sites, including four farms that were certified organic and three that were not. 

The variety trials described in this brief were conducted in 2016. These results represent only one year of data collection, and therefore should be seen as a snapshot of the varieties in that year, which might vary in other weather conditions.

Varieties Included in 2016 Kale Trials

Variety Source Certification OP/F1 Variety Group
Black Magic Osborne Untreated OP Commercial
Dazzling Blue Wild Garden Seeds Organic OP Farmer-selected/PNW
Wild Garden Lacinato Wild Garden Seeds Organic OP Farmer-selected/PNW
Lacinato Osborne Untreated OP Commercial
Lacinato West Coast Seeds Organic OP Commercial
Toscano Johnny's Selected Seeds Organic OP Commercial/Check
Lacinato Full Circle Seeds Organic OP BC-grown
Lacinato Eagleridge Organic OP BC-grown
Rainbow Sugar Shack Seeds Organic OP BC-grown
Rainbow Salt Spring Seeds Organic OP BC-grown
Black Tuscan Siskiyou Organic OP Farmer-selected/PNW
Nero di Tuscana William Dam Untreated OP Heirloom
Cavolo Nero Franchi Seeds Untreated OP Heirloom
Dinosaur Kale Planting Seeds Project Organic OP BC-grown



Growth Habit
The best growth habit scores were for Rainbow Lacinato (Salt Spring), which had the best score. Rainbow Lacinato (Sugar Shack), Dazzling Blue (Wild Garden), Lacinato (Full Circle), Cavolo Nero, (Franchi) all shared similar second best scores. 

Kale with messy leaves

Kale with full clean leaf structure









Image:  A messy plant structure with multiple side shoots (left) and a clean plant structure without side shoots (right).


Plant Height

Rainbow Lacinato (Salt Spring Seeds) and  Rainbow Lacinato (Sugar Shack Seeds) had the best plant height scores, for an average of 40cm high or greater, from the ground to the growing point.


Yield was measured as the total marketable weight harvested from each plot during a single harvest event. Rainbow Lacinato (Salt Spring Seeds) and Lacinato (Eagleridge Seeds)had the  greatest average yield.

Several of the top-performing varieties noted above were from local seed companies, supporting the idea that BC seed growers are maintaining varieties that are well-adapted to local conditions. For more detailed assessments of the 14 lacinato varieties studied, see the full report here.


Project Funders and Partners