BC Seed Trials: Specialty Spinach Variety Trial 2016 (Brief)

Research Brief Publication Date: July 08, 2018
Last Updated: September 03, 2021

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. 

Varieties were described as savoy or semi-savoy, noted for its attractive appearance, sturdy leaves, and good flavour. For this trial, the focus was on uncovered production and a mid- to late-fall harvest and for bunching.

Priority traits for this trial included:

  • Good gerrnination and early vigour
  • Upright plant stature
  • Attractive dark green colour
  • Savoy leaf texture
  • Minimal bolting

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 and Wisbey Veggies in Abbotsford served as organic and conventional “mother” sites. The UBC Farm site used a randomized block trial design, planting each variety three times in different locations. Spinach trials were planted at five on-farm sites in 2016, all of which were certified organic. 

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 Spinach Trials

Variety OP/F1 Source Certification Background
Bloomsdale OP Johnny's Selected Seeds untreated commercial
Bloomsdale OP Sunshine Seeds organic BC-grown
Bloomsdale Dark Green OP William Dam untreated heirloom/commercial
Long Standing Bloomsdale OP Wild Garden Seeds organic farmer-selected/PNW
Abundant Bloomsdale OP High Mowing Seeds organic farmer-selected/PNW
Winter Bloomsdale OP Uprising Seeds organic farmer-selected/PNW
Winter Bloomsdale OP Osborne untreated commercial
Winter Giant OP Adaptive Seeds organic farmer-selected/PNW
Giant Winter OP Full Circle Seeds organic BC-grown
Giant Winter OP Fedco organic commercial
Viroflex (Giant winter) OP William Dam untreated commercial
Samish F1 West Coast Seeds organic  
Popeye OP Siskiyou Seeds organic farmer-selected/PNW



Seedling Vigour

A vigour score was assigned to each plot based on the thickness of the seedling stand at 2-3 weeks. ‘Long Standing Bloomsdale’ from Wild Garden Seeds was a consistent top performer across locations. ‘Samish F1’ and ‘Viroflex,’ two semi-savoy types, germinated well at the on-farm sites but not at the UBC Farm. ‘Bloomsdale’ from Johnny’s had some of the best seedling vigour but also some of the most variable between farms and between blocks at the UBC Farm.

Plant and Leaf Appearance

Plants were scored for stature, leaf texture, and colour. There was a strong difference between savoy and semi-savoy types. True savoy types hadarker green, thicker, and bumpier leaves, with a more upright plant structure (Figure 1). The top varieties in terms of true savoy appearance were ‘Winter Bloomsdale’ from Uprising Seeds and ‘Abundant Bloomsdale’ from High Mowing Organic Seeds.

Savoy-type spinach leaves

Semi-savoy spinach leaf type



Figure 1: Savoy (left) and semi-savoy (right) leat types.


Bolting was evaluated by counting the number of plants that had bolted on the date of the harvest evaluation. These results should be viewed with caution as they are based on a single, unreplicated trial location. Varieties which displayed the most bolting in this trial were ‘Bloomsdale Dark Green’ (William Dam), ‘Bloomsdale’ (Sunshine Seeds)  and ‘Giant Winter’ (Full Circle Seeds).


Whole plants were pulled and weighed. Harvest weights were much higher at Wisbey Veggies overall. ‘Viroflex’ and ‘Giant Winter’ were top yielding varieties at both locations. The semi-savoy varieties generally had larger leaves, leading to higher harvest weights.

Project Funders and Partners