The September issue of Specialty Crop Industry Magazine highlights various alternative crops that Florida growers can take advantage of.
These include pongamia and sorrel, which show potential in the Sunshine State; and bamboo, of which producers have formed an association. University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS) researchers are also searching for the next breakthrough crop. Potential candidates include purple sweet potatoes, vanilla, blackberries, carrots and pumpkins.
Sorrel is easy to grow and requires minimal inputs. But growers should note that sorrel can suffer in fields prone to flooding. Pongamia pinnata is a fast-growing evergreen tree that can reach heights up to 40 feet. It can provide moderate shade and presents dark green, glossy leaves.
Bamboo is increasing in popularity as an alternative crop. There has been improved variety selections and new infrastructure which is prompting some producers to take a second look at the crop. The Florida Bamboo Growers Association, Inc. was founded this spring as well.
Tiffany Bailey, owner of Honeyside Farms in Parrish, Florida, discusses marketing and selling your product to retail customers.
Finally, the Citrus and Specialty Crop Expo was held on Aug. 17-18 in Fort Myers, Florida. Educational seminars were held. Prizes were given away. The two-day event attracted 160 vendors and nearly 1,000 attendees. They learned about citrus and different specialty crops from UF/IFAS researchers and industry leaders.