Florida Researchers Making the Most of Alternative Crops

Alternative crops like Brussels sprouts are gaining more attention in Northeast Florida’s Tri-County Agricultural Area.
Photo by Wendy Mussoline

Members of the UF/IFAS Hastings Agricultural Extension Center (HAEC) team are avidly working on finding solutions for Tri-County Agricultural Area (TCAA) growers. In light of diminishing local potato chip contracts, researchers are experimenting with several alternative crops that are well adapted to the soils and have promising markets in order to promote economic sustainability among area growers.

One of those alternative crops showing promise is Brussels sprouts. They are a trendy food that often shows up as an appetizer on a menu, either sauteed with olive oil and garlic or wrapped in bacon. At County Line Produce, you’ll find them in tact on the stalk, which helps them maintain freshness and also reduces the labor involved in processing the crop. This seems to be a widespread marketing strategy as I’ve also noticed them on the stalk at Sam’s Club. After removing the sprouts from the stalks, the stalks are a nutritious treat for livestock or a great addition to your compost pile.

A field trial analyzing nitrogen inputs on Brussels sprouts planted at HAEC’s Cowpen Branch Demonstration and Research Farm recently concluded. The trial was led by Dr. Lincoln Zotarelli, UF/IFAS Assistant Professor and Extension Specialist. The goal of the research was to determine the optimal nitrogen fertilization rate for this particular crop on the sandy soils typically found in Hastings. The findings will help interested growers get a leg up on this hot crop.

And although the farm cannot sell its produce, UF/IFAS is diligent to ensure that no food goes to waste. Upon completion of the trial, the bounty from the crop was donated to a local food ministry in Palatka.

Nikki Cummings, volunteer for the Just for Jesus Food Ministry in Palatka, FL, helped harvest Brussels sprouts for the needy from UF/IFAS Hastings Agricultural Extension Center’s research farm.
Photo by Wendy Mussoline

Several volunteers from the Just for Jesus Food Ministry assisted in the recent Brussels sprout harvest. Just for Jesus food pantry offers food to the needy every Tuesday from 1:30 to 3:00 PM at the ministry hub located at 3001 St. Johns Avenue. A valid drivers license is all that is required to receive food from the pantry.