Brad Turner has worked in Florida citrus more than 40 years as a grower, production manager, caretaker and nursery owner. For most of that time, he focused on using synthetic fertilizers, fungicides, insecticides and herbicides as the necessary inputs for citrus management. But a change in the way he thought citrus should be grown led to him being named a winner of a 2021 Agricultural-Environmental Leadership Award. The awards were announced in June by the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS).
According to a FDACS announcement about the award, the Lithia grower was recognized “for his commitment to promoting soil and tree health through the implementation of regenerative management practices, reducing the need for fertilizer and insecticides and increasing water retention.”
Turner sold his 110-acre grove and farm several years ago because of “failing tree health and loss of production,” he reports. In late 2017, he purchased a 5-acre parcel of vacant land and started planting more than 50 varieties of citrus trees on assorted rootstocks.
Turner says he converted to regenerative agriculture methods emphasizing biodiversity in microorganisms and plants. “These methods rely on ancestral practices such as cover cropping and applying compost while expanding to include more innovative methods,” he states. Those more innovative methods include “mineral balancing the soil and extracting, multiplying and applying microbes,” he adds.
“In parallel to my work in my own grove, other growers have sought me out to help them with converting to regenerative agriculture methods,” Turner says. The methods he uses in his own grove and others is described on his Sand to Soil Services website. Turner owns Sand to Soil Services.
On his website, Turner states that, “Since I am no longer commercially producing citrus, my goal now is to help citrus growers.”
Also on his website, Tuner recalls touring grower Ed James’ grove in Howey in the Hills, where James successfully grew citrus using cover crops and compost. Learn more about James’ work with cover crops.
“Based on what I saw in Ed’s grove, coupled with the information I had gathered, I was ready to take a leap of faith and prove that regenerative farming principles could not only be implemented in the citrus industry, but could address many of the industry’s challenges,” Turner writes.
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