Take Alternative Routes to Find Conventional Farming Solutions [Opinion]

Change is inevitable, like it or not. And if you wait long enough, things will shift again, often ending up right where you started.

Florida’s citrus industry is becoming a prime example of this given how much production and crop protection practices have been turned on their head since the onslaught of citrus greening. Reams of research papers and millions upon millions of dollars have been poured into a sector desperately seeking a cure for the scourge. All the effort has inspired some good ideas over the years.

green means go arrow
Green means go. Which way is up to you.

In 2009, the alternative approach of choice to dealing with greening was a heavy diet of foliar nutrition. Grower Maury Boyd and his proprietary cocktail of micro and macronutrients earned him recognition among growers and the 2011 Florida GrowerSM Citrus Achievement Award. It wasn’t just about removing the inoculum anymore. It was about feeding the tree to make it stronger. It made sense then, and it still does now.

From that time on, think about how many different ways to live with HLB have come to the fore. With no definitive cure yet for this moving target, preferred crop care methods are all over the map, and still evolving.

Citrus Stalemate

Even a dozen years into the fight against HLB, growers continue to tweak their game plan. It’s required. Production numbers dictate as such.

While we know some growers are sticking to a regimented program of throwing everything and the kitchen sink at greening, others are actually dialing it back to basics, and finding some interesting results.

Have we been overthinking HLB? Certainly not. There really was no other choice than to go all in. Despite the frustrations, we’re truly lucky to have so many options to consider today, plus more on the way thanks to new and improved varieties and modern technologies that tap into genetic editing. We’re even luckier there’s an industry still left to fight for. There’s always corner to turn. We might be closer than you think.

Home Brew

Amid all the anxiety over struggling specialty staples is a hope in alternative crops. As I wrote this, I also was working on a feature article that will vet the viability of growing hops commercially in Florida. Without a doubt, the key ingredient that drives beer is making a big splash for interested parties, especially now that research and a few determined growers are proving the crop can be cultivated locally. Add that to the booming craft beer industry, and you have an opportunity worth exploring. What I’ve learned so far is fascinating. Stay tuned.

peeling back hop crops to look inside
The potential for a Florida hop crop is causing a stir among interested growers. Photo by Paul Rusnak

And, of course, hops is just one of several alternatives showing promise. Also on the table are artichokes, pomegranates, olives, tea … and let’s not forget — cannabis. What a time to be a Florida grower.

Not that long ago, blueberries were considered alternative for Florida. A few years from now, who knows how our specialty agriculture landscape will look. One thing is for sure: To grow, things will have to change. Are you ready?

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