Florida and California specialty crop growers recently gathered for a virtual discussion presented by J.L. Farmakis, Inc. to talk about issues unique to their crops and regions.
Citrus grower Lee Jones with Cross Covered Caretaking represented the Sunshine State. He shared some of the struggles and successes of growing citrus in Florida.
Jones says one of the biggest challenges he faces is not having enough tools in the toolbox.
Research says growers should take care of weeds in the springtime in particular. However, Florida faces weed pressure year-round due to favorable weather conditions that allow rapid growth of weeds in groves.
With the availability of Roundup getting tighter, Jones says the herbicide toolbox is becoming more and more empty all the time.
In addition to limited availability, he says growers have to go through so many steps to be able to use the few tools available to them. Licensing, training and keeping their continuing education units up to date are just a few of the items on their to-do list.
The price of these tools is also a limiting factor, according to Jones.
“There’s been some new chemistries that have come out that looked pretty good, but it’s out of our reach to even use those tools,” Jones says. “Yet I understand from a manufacturer’s perspective, they’ve got to pay for all those years of work and labeling and jumping through all the hurdles they have to. So I understand the price of that, but it’s just a shame when the price is out of reach for the grower.”
Switching gears, Jones says Florida citrus growers and researchers are heavily looking into cover crops to reduce weed and psyllid pressure.
Jones has seen firsthand how beneficial species can feed on the pollen of a cover crop when citrus pests are not present. When the pests return, the beneficials can contribute to eliminating them.
He also notes the positive role cover crops provide in adding organic matter to the soil. “There was some research done. It showed about 20 tons per acre (of organic matter),” says Jones.
Jones discusses some work being done with microbes. Beneficial microbes carry out nutrient cycling, help in the production of organic matter and improve overall soil structure. “We are finding that compost is a great carbon source for those microbes to help sustain their populations when the roots of the trees are dying back. That’s an added benefit (of compost) as well as water-holding capacity,” Jones says.
Hear more from Jones and other specialty crop growers in the following video discussion: