Hardee County citrus grower Marlon Pendergrass with The Groves of Peace River discusses his orange crop, tree health and citrus prices.
“We have a better crop this year than we had last year,” Pendergrass says. “Last year was much better than when (Hurricane) Irma came through” in September 2017. He says work is still being done to restore the grove from Irma damage. “That was a devastating blow to us because we’re just to the east of the eye,” he says.
Pendergrass says trees are doing better both because of the recovery from the hurricane and “because we’re now doing practices to initiate better tree health … We’re getting back to the basics. Number one, you’ve got to have a good irrigation program” to ensure trees are getting enough water. “And number two, you’ve got to spoon feed those trees” with essential macronutrients and micronutrients, he says. “If we treat our trees much like (we ensure) good health in our bodies, we’ll be a lot better off.”
This year’s crop hasn’t yet been committed to buyers, but Pendergrass says, “I’m getting calls daily and we’re shopping” for buyers. He says that offers for juice fruit have been “scary low,” but notes that The Groves of Peace River grows fresh fruit as well as juice fruit. “So we don’t depend totally on the cannery (processors),” he says.
Pendergrass has been growing citrus in Florida for about 12 years. “I’m from Alabama but moved down here because of the drought conditions in Alabama,” he says.
He attended a Sept. 25 grower meeting in Sebring hosted by Highlands County Extension director and citrus agent Laurie Hurner. At that meeting, he and other growers learned about new citrus pests in Florida and changes to the latest edition of the Florida Citrus Production Guide.
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