Florida Grapefruit Grower Goes All In To Save Groves

Scott Lambeth, Golden River Fruit Co. Photo by Frank Giles
Scott Lambeth, Golden River Fruit Co.
Photo by Frank Giles

It has been said that HLB has taken the romance out of growing citrus. Gone are the days when part-time attention could pass for producing the state’s signature crop. In the grips of greening, only the most focused, highest-input growers are slowing the disease.
Scott Lambeth, production manager for Golden River Fruit Company in Vero Beach, says he and many fellow growers he communicates with are throwing everything but the kitchen sink at HLB. And, he’d throw in the sink if he thought it would help.
The third generation grower says these are scary but exciting times.
“As stressful as this has become, it is exciting because every day is different and we are learning new things,” Lambeth says. “Trust me, I don’t dread it.”
The cooperative spirit among growers is one reason Lambeth has kept his confidence up in the face of HLB.
“We are competitors, but we all know we are in a dog fight with HLB and we are all in this together,” he says. “I spend a good part of my day on the phone or riding with other growers talking about what is working or not working. There are no secrets anymore.
“Before HLB, I never did any trial work with the chemical companies. Now, I do a lot of trial work with them. We have to look for answers everywhere we can.”

The fight against HLB is making those left standing better growers. Lambeth says he had one the largest crops in the past 10 years last season.
“I think one thing we all are seeing is the groves on good land look better, and groves on bad land are just OK, but they are not going backwards,” he says.

A Complete 180

How Lambeth is managing citrus today is 180 degrees different from how he was farming just three and four years ago. “We are throwing everything we have at HLB,” he says. “We don’t have a fall-back position. We are grapefruit growers, and we have to feed this packinghouse (Indian River Exchange Packers).”
Lambeth says he takes after his father in that he is willing to adopt the latest technology and techniques on the farm.
“My father was the first to put in plastic bins and go to all aluminum ladders for canker,” he says. “We were early adopters of optic graders and forced-air cooling in our old packinghouse.”
Because the groves and packinghouse are GlobalGAP certified, the farm has extremely detailed records, which makes tracking what works or doesn’t easier.
“The biggest thing we are doing differently is we are spoon feeding these trees fertility,” he says. “We are not applying the big slugs of ground fertilizer three times per year. We know the roots are getting decimated by HLB, so they can’t catch those big slugs anymore.”
Currently, Lambeth is using only two dry fertilizer applications per year and relying more on fertigation to deliver small splashes of fertilizer.
“I have been going with monthly fertigation, but next year, we are looking to move to bi-weekly or weekly fertigation,” Lambeth says.

Lambeth counts himself fortunate in that he has been applying foliar nutrition for more than 10 years. He believes that gave him a little bit of a cushion when HLB came on the scene.
“Today, we are foliar feeding throughout the year with Plant Food Systems’ line of products,” he says. “Between the fertigation and foliar applications, we are hitting the tops and bottoms of these trees constantly to keep them at optimum nutrient levels.”
Another change related to fertilizer is gable-cut topping the trees. “I don’t think the roots can support much more size of a tree,” he says. “If I showed you the grove where I had my highest yield last season, those trees are 12 feet tall at the peak. We are learning you don’t have to have a big, tall tree to get five and six boxes of yield. We are doing it on tight, compact trees now.”
Lambeth also is evaluating a foliar product Cyan 365. It is an extract of 100% pure seaweed, which claims to improve photosynthesis of trees and promote healthier trees that are more resistant to disease.
“We are willing to try new things in this environment,” Lambeth says. “Some growers on the East Coast have had some promising results with Cyan, so we’ve been testing it on 750 acres of grove. We are seeing some positive results, so we will be applying on more acreage in the coming year.”

Topics: , , , ,

Leave a Reply

Citrus Stories
Flooded vegetable field in South Florida
Citrus
February 3, 2016
Historic Rainfall Hampering South Florida Farms
El Niño express delivering floods, uncertainty for crops. Read More
Rainy welcome at 2016 Florida Citrus Show
Citrus
February 1, 2016
Growers, Industry Leaders Weather The Storm At 2016 Florida Citrus Show
Not even an El Niño-fueled, two-day soaker can keep a flood of attendees from the annual gathering. Read More
A female Diaphorencyrtus aligarhensis shown here is one wasp that specifically targets the Asian citrus psyllid. (Photo credit: Mike Lewis, CISR, UC-Riverside.)
Insect & Disease Update
January 29, 2016
Biology Meets Asian Citrus Psyllid Control
A team of researchers is studying two targeted parasitoid wasps to help prevent the spread of Asian citrus psyllid in the state. Read More
Asian citrus psyllid
Insect & Disease Update
January 25, 2016
Asian Citrus Psyllid Quarantine Area In California Expanded Again
A zone of nearly 100 square miles has been declared in Fresno County following new detection. Read More
Guy in suit under the water
Citrus
January 23, 2016
Too Much Cheerleading Has EPA In Deep Water [Opinion]
These days, far too often, elected representatives of the people are abdicating their responsibilities to federal agencies. The result is rules like WOTUS. Read More
NASA's global temperature heat map for 2015
Citrus
January 22, 2016
It’s Official: 2015 Was Earth’s Warmest Year On Record
NASA, NOAA analyses reveal record-shattering statistics regarding global temperatures this past year. Read More
Example of an extended weather forecast
Citrus
January 21, 2016
Chance Of Profits Up For Growers Tuned Into The Weather
UF/IFAS study confirms how paying attention to the 10-day forecast can affect a farmer’s bottom line. Read More
The Latest
Citrus
February 4, 2016
Can Olive Oil Grease Skids For Florida’s…
Researchers, interested growers help launch new industry. Read More
Citrus
February 3, 2016
Sunkist Expands Organic Portfolio
With the organic citrus sector growing three times as fast as conventional, the 123-year-old cooperative is keeping up with the times. Read More
Citrus
February 3, 2016
Syngenta OKs Buyout By ChemChina
Deal valued at more than $43 billion; Syngenta management team to stay intact. Read More
Citrus
February 3, 2016
Historic Rainfall Hampering South Florid…
El Niño express delivering floods, uncertainty for crops. Read More
Citrus
February 1, 2016
Growers, Industry Leaders Weather The St…
Not even an El Niño-fueled, two-day soaker can keep a flood of attendees from the annual gathering. Read More
Citrus
January 23, 2016
Too Much Cheerleading Has EPA In Deep Wa…
These days, far too often, elected representatives of the people are abdicating their responsibilities to federal agencies. The result is rules like WOTUS. Read More
Citrus
January 22, 2016
It’s Official: 2015 Was Earth’s Wa…
NASA, NOAA analyses reveal record-shattering statistics regarding global temperatures this past year. Read More
Citrus
January 21, 2016
Chance Of Profits Up For Growers Tuned I…
UF/IFAS study confirms how paying attention to the 10-day forecast can affect a farmer’s bottom line. Read More
Citrus
January 20, 2016
Agriculture Agents Intercept Invasive Be…
Notorious wood borer hitched a ride in a container of cucumbers arriving from Costa Rica. Read More
Citrus
January 20, 2016
USDA Report: Pesticide Residues Not A Fo…
Following monthly samplings, survey finds more than 99% of products sampled fall below EPA tolerances for pesticide residues. Read More
Citrus
January 19, 2016
Let’s Raise A Glass To FloridaR…
Challenges with unique solutions are needed to make the agriculture sector stronger. Read More
Citrus
January 18, 2016
Farming Fertility Practices Evolving Wit…
Improving water quality while maintaining production is being achieved in American agriculture. Read More
Citrus
January 16, 2016
3 Products To Better Serve Your Soil
Check out a sampling of the latest soil health enhancers. Read More
Citrus
January 15, 2016
Emphasis On Soil Health Moving Growers T…
There are benefits to be gained by taking care of what lies beneath. Read More
Citrus
January 15, 2016
Port Tampa Bay Embarks On Big Plans To M…
Opportunities for growers abound as the Panama Canal doubles its capacity. Read More
Citrus
January 13, 2016
Florida Legislature Passes Key Water Pol…
Legislation set up to preserve and restore the state’s water and natural resources for future generations. Read More
Citrus
January 13, 2016
American Farm Bureau Elects New Presiden…
Georgia farmer Zippy Duvall to take leadership reins from retiring Bob Stallman. Read More
Citrus
January 12, 2016
Orange Crop Outlook Remains Sour Spot Fo…
For the first time this season, estimates from USDA do not drop. Read More
[gravityform id="62" title="false" description="false"]