[Editor’s Note: This interview was conducted and article written before Hurricane Irma’s impact]
This is the final installment of four special features honoring the 2017 Florida GrowerSM Citrus Achievement Award winner Ed Pines, Owner of EIP Citrus in Lake Wales. Special thanks to Arysta LifeScience for sponsoring the Citrus Achievement Award.
What varieties have you planted under your 20-acre citrus under protective screen structure (CUPS)?
Pines: We are looking for high-quality fresh fruit varieties that consumers are looking for like easy-peel and low- to no-seed fruit.
We have planted ‘Tango’ on one half and ‘Early Pride’ on the other half of the covered structures. Both are great varieties, and the fruit has been well received by consumers.
By growing the trees in a CUPS system, we also can protect the fruit from wind, hail, and sun damage, which results in better packout and quality. Also, by growing the trees in an HLB-free environment and through intensive management, we anticipate producing 800 boxes per acre on these trees by year five.
Are there ways you can market the fresh citrus being grown under your CUPS system?
Pines: Consumers today are far more interested in where and how their food is grown. Under CUPS, we can grow citrus in a much more environmentally friendly way.
Because the screen prevents most insect pests from entering the planting, we can use less and softer insecticides. The screen also act as a windbreak, so we have to make fewer applications to treat canker.
In addition, we can be far more efficient with irrigation utilizing much less water than required for trees planted outside. This also translates into more efficient use of fertilizer.
All of these sustainable practices can be part of our story and incorporated into marketing our fresh fruit.
Special thanks to Arysta LifeScience for sponsoring the Citrus Achievement Award.