Dundee Citrus Growers Association (CGA) and its members will more than double the area growing fresh citrus under protective screen (CUPS) with the addition of a second CUPS project. The new project will be located in southern Polk County, just east of Fort Meade.
“Once fully developed, the 622-acre parcel will contain approximately 500 acres of CUPS … bringing our total CUPS acreage to near 1,000 when complete,” said Steve Callaham, Dundee CGA chief executive officer. The first trees in the new project will be planted in the fall of 2023, and the first harvest will occur three years later. Red grapefruit will be the main variety planted.
Callaham said the current Dundee CGA CUPS project east of Bartow will have approximately 450 acres planted by the end of 2022. “This past season, we harvested the first commercially marketable crop from our Phase 1 development in Bartow,” he said. “The external quality, internal quality and fruit size all exceeded our expectations for the harvest. I consider this a success.” Individual growers own pods, or screened structures, within the project, and Dundee CGA conducts caretaking and harvesting.
University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences trials have demonstrated that CUPS can keep trees free of HLB-spreading Asian citrus psyllids. Callaham cited other benefits of CUPS: “The CUPS growing method produces a consistent, high-quality fruit supply in an environmentally friendly manner. It uses less land, less water and less fertilizer to produce each piece of fruit.”
Callaham said Dundee CGA members also “continue to use the most advanced growing techniques to produce citrus in traditional outdoor groves. Our aggressive CUPS expansion compliments the outdoor acres in membership to provide the cooperative the volume needed to be efficient and successful.”
“Our industry has had a difficult time staying positive with all the challenges we face,” Callaham added. “CUPS has brought the positivity back to our organization, and we are looking forward to the future … While CUPS is a large part of our activities, Dundee Citrus Growers Association remains focused on the diversification of our products and services. We are approaching our 100-year anniversary. It has taken great vision and leadership to get us here, and we believe we are positioned well to be leaders in the industry for another 100 years.”
A tour of one grower’s CUPS pod at the Dundee CGA site east of Bartow was conducted in May. Learn about it here.
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