Agricultural best management practices (BMPs) are essential to protect Florida’s natural resources by mitigating agriculture’s potential negative impact on the environment.
Public benefits of BMP implementation include sustained or improved water quality, reduced soil erosion and increased water conservation. Private benefits can include improved crop yield and reduced input costs from less labor, fuel and fertilizer.
“Growers provide a public service by absorbing the cost of implementing BMPs,” says Tara Wade, University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS) assistant professor. “More information is needed so we can have a meaningful conversation about who should be paying for BMP adoption and how to improve the program design.”
Wade and other UF/IFAS researchers designed a survey that identified BMPs being adopted by different commodity growers. She discussed the preliminary data relating to citrus growers’ perceptions of BMP costs and benefits during the March 23 Citrus Squeezer webinar, hosted by UF/IFAS.
The survey focused on four core practices: controlled-release fertilizer, calibration of fertilizer equipment, irrigation scheduling tools and cover crops.
Based on preliminary data, over 70% of respondents reported using irrigation scheduling systems and calibrating fertilizer equipment. Additionally, over 50% of growers who responded use controlled-release fertilizer, and 8 of the 51 respondents claimed to use cover crops on their operation. Wade said that smaller citrus growers reported adapting controlled-release fertilizer more so than large-scale growers.
In general, most survey respondents claimed the BMPs they have implemented are profitable.
“It’s profitable, probably because they are making other trade-offs,” Wade said. Even though they’re paying for the cost of the BMP program, they’re saving money on inputs, labor or even simply saving time.
According to Wade, results from this survey will be used to help focus efforts in designing and updating enterprise budgets that will calculate direct costs from adoption of these practices. Results will also be used to design other research projects that identify growers’ challenges to adopting BMPs and quantify the value they provide.
Wade has designed another survey addressing the use of cover crops and reflective mulch in citrus production. Growers can participate in the anonymous survey here.
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