IMG Citrus packs grapefruit portfolio IMG Citrus, a longtime family owned specialty agriculture operation based in Vero Beach, has announced the acquisition of a 4,000-acre grapefruit grove in neighboring St. Lucie County. Terms of the deal were not disclosed; however, assets of the sale are reported to be estimated at $40 million. The large investment increases IMG’s control of citrus land management in the Sunshine State by more than 75 percent.

The parcel of land has been renamed Happy Food Grove after IMG’s main consumer brand Happy Food, which can be found in supermarkets in the U.S., Canada, Europe, and Asia.

The company reports an additional 397 undeveloped tree acres will be home to its new grove redevelopment project, with 273 acres of citrus trees to be set within high-density planting blocks predicted to produce mature fruit within three years, and 124 acres of trees set within existing traditional blocks.

In addition to the land purchase, the acquisition also included transitioning 17 existing grove employees to IMG Citrus.

Paul Rusnak is the Senior Managing Online Editor of Florida Grower, American Vegetable Grower, American Fruit Grower and Greenhouse Grower magazines

Sweet potatoes and spinach, most acreage increasesThe long-awaited 2017 Census of Agriculture has finally arrived. Over the next few weeks, the American Vegetable Grower team will delve into the data, compiled only every five years. We’re starting with vegetable crops’ acreage increases and decreases.

The crops with the highest five-year increases in harvested acreage reflect consumer trends. The top three crops—sweet potatoes, spinach and romaine—have seen surges in interest leading up to 2017. It should be noted that the romaine recalls occurred after USDA conducted the census.

Interestingly, the number of acres included in the top five acreage increases are much lower than the highest decreases acreage. The percentages involved, however, are much lower. That may stem from the sheer number of acres involved.

All five crops with the most decreased harvested acres fall within the top 10 vegetables crops, acreage wise. In fact, four are in the top five. In contrast, three vegetable crops in the increased acreage list didn’t make the top 10 vegetable crops list.

Crops with the highest increases in acreage1. Sweet potatoes: 47,257 more acres, a 38 percent increase

2. Spinach: 23,592 more acres, a 51 percent increase

3. Lettuce (romaine): 22,780 more acres, a 23 percent increase—it’s worth noting that “all lettuce” also had a major increase, but most of that number came from romaine.

4. Onions (dry): 14,022 more acres, a 9 percent increase

5. Squash (all): 11,704 more acres, a 20 percent increase

Biggest decreases in acreage

1. Sweet corn: 75,972 fewer acres, a 13 percent decrease

2. Tomatoes: 62,308 fewer acres, a 16 percent decrease

3. Peas (green): 44,841 fewer acres, a 23 percent decrease

4. Beans, snap (bush and pole): 42,741 fewer acres, an 18 percent decrease

5. Potatoes: 35,071 fewer acres, a 3 percent decrease

USDA also announced details about American farms/farmersThere are 2.04 million farms and ranches with an average size of 441 acres on 900 million acres

The 273,000 smallest (one to nine acres) farms make up 0.1 percent of all farmland, while the 85,127 largest (2,000 or more acres) farms make up 58 percent of farmland

Just 105,453 farms produced 75 percent of all sales in 2017, down from 119,908 in 2012.

Top farm expenses ($326 billion) include feed, livestock purchased, hired labor, fertilizer, and cash rents

Average farm income is $43,053; a total of 43.6 percent of farms had positive net cash farm income in 2017

Ninety-six percent of farms and ranches are family owned

Other demographic highlights:

The average age of all producers is 57.5, up 1.2 years from 2012

There are 321,261 young producers age 35 or less on 240,141 farms

One in four producers is a beginning farmer with 10 or fewer years of experience and an average age of 46.3; farms with new or beginning producers making decisions tend to be smaller than average in both acres and value of production

Thirty-six percent of all producers are female and 56 percent of all farms have at least one female decision-maker

Female producers are most heavily engaged in day-to-day decisions along with record keeping and financial management

Carol Miller is editor of American Vegetable Grower

Organic fertilizers have impact To badly quote Jane Austen, it’s a truth widely acknowledged that organic production is in need of a well-fed, healthy soil. To that end, researchers have turned their attention to understanding just how much organic fertilizers impact vegetable yields.

Details of the trials:

Organic acids: The two organic acids were citric and oxalic and given in two different concentrations—0.1 millimoles per litre and 100 millimoles per liter each.

Soil: The study also used soil from two Texas locations with significantly different soil types. One is from the Houston area. That soil had a 7.8 pH, high levels of calcium, and calcium carbonates.

The other soil came from a location between Austin and San Antonio, with a 6.6 pH.

Results: The Houston-area soil showed just slightly lower P levels than the soils treated with conventional P fertilizers. There was no significant difference in yield. The soil taken from the second location did not have as strong a result.

Read the full study, “Effects of Organic Acids Application on Olsen-Extractable P and Eggplant (Solanum melongena) Yield.”

Carol Miller

Food safety stronger with natural habitatsFood safety regulations increasingly pressure growers to remove hedgerows, ponds, and other natural habitats from farms to keep out pathogen-carrying wildlife and livestock. Yet, these measures may be counterproductive, a new study says.

A Washington State University study involving 70 farms throughout the West Coast finds the presence of dung beetles and soil bacteria naturally suppress E. coli and other harmful pathogens before spreading to humans.

Matthew Jones, an entomologist working toward his PhD, studied how pig dung broke down in fields. Jones drove a van full of pig feces along the U.S. West Coast to follow the planting of broccoli at 70 farm fields during the growing season. Broccoli, much like leafy greens, is susceptible to fecal contamination due to its proximity to the ground and the likelihood of humans consuming it without cooking.

The 70 farms included conventional and organic farms, and farms with or without livestock. Jones measured how quickly dung beetles clean up. Dung beetles bury feces below ground and make it difficult for pathogens to survive.

The organic farms attracted a diverse range of dung beetle species, effective at keeping foodborne pathogens at bay. In conventional fields or those surrounded by pastureland, a less effective and accidentally introduced species (Onthophagus nuchicornis) outweighed the number of native dung beetles.

Snyder mentioned the study results during his talk, “Smart Ways to Attract Natural Predators to Organic Operations,” at Biocontrols Conference USA West on March 15.

Carol Miller

Florida orange horseradish sauceIngredients

8 ounces orange marmalade

2 tablespoons fresh horseradish, or more, to taste

Sea salt and fresh ground pepper, to taste


In a small mixing bowl combine all the ingredients, taste and adjust flavors as desired. Refrigerate until ready to serve. Pairs well with Florida seafood, poultry, pork, and vegetables.


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