Virtually all Florida citrus growers have signed up to participate in the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services’ (FDACS) best management practices (BMPs) for water quality and water quantity. “They’ve done an extremely good job over the last 20 years that we’ve had BMPs,” says University of Florida researcher Kelly Morgan, the statewide BMP coordinator.
“The (state) water act in 2016 brought about some significant changes,” Morgan says, and he wants citrus growers and others to know about those changes. As part of his effort to keep growers up to date with BMPs, he made a presentation at a recent seminar in Immokalee.
“The BMPs are still the same; the BMAPs (Basin Management Action Plans) that have been enacted over the last 10 years or so are still in place. But if a grower’s field is in a BMAP area, he has to be in the BMP program to qualify for certain things, including cost share.”
“Every five years, the Department of Environmental Protection is required to review the water quality in that BMAP,” Morgan says. “And if it has not met the standards that they have approved for it over a five-year period, then the growers have to be enrolled in the BMP program, or they will be mandated to start taking water-quality samples from their fields at their expense. This can be quite high.”
FDACS is in charge of BMPs, Morgan says, “and they have to now, because of the water act, certify that the growers are actually performing the BMPs that they have said that they would on their original letters of intent.” He says FDACS staff will talk to growers and determine if BMPs are being implemented. “And the key thing that they’ll be looking for is any kind of records that they (growers) are implementing them.” Records of irrigation and the amounts and dates of fertilizer applications are among the documentation FDACS seeks. “If they (growers) have soil moisture sensors, that’s the easiest way” to show they are irrigating properly, Morgan says.
Morgan emphasizes that BMPs are not only good for water quality, but are also good, science-based management practices that allow growers to achieve good production results.
He says technology can help growers implement BMPs. “And there will be new BMPs implemented over time … And those will be more automated systems, such as irrigation management, use of soil moisture sensors, use of automated pumps and valves, precision fertilizer applicators, things of that nature.”
The seminar that Morgan spoke at was hosted by multi-county citrus Extension agent Mongi Zekri at the Southwest Florida Research and Education Center.
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