Tag Archive: Options

Struggling to Grow Fruit Trees? Try These Lesser Known Florida-Friendly Edible Options!

Northwest Floridians are lucky.  We get to bask in the warm sunshine at least eight months of the year, consider it cold weather when we have to break out the fleece pullover and none of us live more than a few hours’ drive to the whitest sand you ever saw.  However, those conditions have consequences.  That warm sun and plentiful rain yields heat and humidity, a perfect breeding ground for all manner of pests and diseases, not to mention seriously cutting down on necessary chill hours required by many species.  We’ll never be able to grow peaches like they do in Georgia.  No one is in any danger of mistaking a Florida apple for one from Michigan.  Pomegranates, olives, and nectarines like California?  Forget about it.  All of those species will mostly survive and grow but in most cases, the inputs of labor and protective chemicals greatly outweigh the output of fruit.  For most of us it is just not worth the time and effort to turn a crop!

We have a couple of adapted, well-known stalwarts to turn to though.  Any gardener worth his salt has a few productive rabbiteye blueberries (Vaccinium ashei), a pear (Pyrus communis), an old reliable fig tree (Ficus carica), and a citrus or two of some kind (though with the devastating disease known as Citrus Greening looming on the horizon, backyard citrus may decline in popularity in the near future).  However, hobby fruit growers aren’t often content to stick to those standards though.  We tend to be an adventurous, progressive lot, always looking for new species to grow and constantly pushing climatic and adaptation limits of species, with varying success. For the Panhandle backyard fruit orchardist looking for a little variety but demanding a high probability of success, there are three unusual Florida Friendly trees requiring little winter chill that fit the bill perfectly:  Pawpaw (Asimina triloba), Japanese Persimmon (Diospyros kaki), and Loquat (Eriobtrya japonica).

Pawpaw fruit

The pawpaw (yes it’s pronounced exactly like you think it is) is an altogether unusual tree.  For starters, it is one of the most adaptable plants in cultivation, growing native from New York all the way down to the Sunshine State.  It would be a beautiful tree if it never produced a single fruit; the large leaves droop naturally, lending a decidedly tropical feel to the garden and the understated purple-brown flowers are some of the more attractive of our native spring blooming trees.  But, to be sure, the fruit are the real attraction here.  Technically berries, the bluish-green, three to five inch long, oval-shaped fruit ripen in the late summer (August-October) and have an extremely unique taste often likened to banana or custard.  Pawpaws occur naturally in moist, well-drained soils and thrive in both shade and sun; site accordingly and this unusual little native fruit tree should perform admirably for you!

While more common than Pawpaw, Japanese Persimmon still has not reached the cosmopolitan status of pear or fig or the like for reasons unclear to me!  Native to eastern Asia, Japanese Persimmon is right at home in the Panhandle where it rewards gardeners each fall with outstanding reddish/orange foliage and a reliable crop of beautiful, baseball-sized, orange fruit possessing a crisp, sweet taste that can be eaten fresh or used in cooking.  I especially like the fruit when it is made into a cakey “bread” similar to banana bread.  It is a remarkably forgiving tree, growing and fruiting reliably with little help from the orchardist.  Japanese Persimmon is generally sold as one of the selected cultivars, ‘Fuyu’ being the most common and probably the best.  The species prefers full sun and moist, well-drained soil but does just fine without irrigation once it reaches establishment.  A bonus, you only need to plant one as Japanese Persimmon does not require a pollinator!  (Note:  Persimmons can be astringent or non-astringent.  If you plant an astringent cultivar, be sure to let the fruit ripen completely before eating as they are unpalatable until that point.  Most are probably better off going with a non-astringent cultivar such as ‘Fuyu’.)

Persimmon fruit

A lesser-known gem of the coastal south, Loquat is hard to beat.  It’s a great addition to the landscape, the cinnamon colored bark, foot-long “cabbagey” textured leaves and early spring flowers outdo many purely ornamental species.  The yellowish-orange fruit that follow are outstanding picked and eaten fresh off the tree.  Flavor is reminiscent of citrus with a sweet taste and a soft texture.  Loquat flourishes in full sun and once established needs little to no supplemental fertilization or irrigation.  As with Japanese Persimmon, Loquat is self-fertile and does not need a pollinator so just one tree will do (trust me, one healthy loquat will make enough fruit to feed a small army)!

Loquat fruit

If you are indeed a backyard orcharding enthusiast and want to expand your horizons to include more than the same old standard species that everyone else grows or maybe you’re just frustrated with trying to grow popular but ill-adapted species like peach and apple, you could do a lot worse than including one or all of Pawpaw, Japanese Persimmon, and Loquat into your garden!  For more information on fruit trees and any other horticultural questions you may have, contact your local UF/IFAS Extension office.  Happy gardening!



Author: Daniel J. Leonard – d.leonard@ufl.edu

Horticulture Agent, Walton County

Daniel J. Leonard

Permanent link to this article: http://franklin.ifas.ufl.edu/newsletters/2017/08/25/struggling-to-grow-fruit-trees-try-these-lesser-known-florida-friendly-edible-options/

Endless October Options in Northwest Florida!

Endless October Options in Northwest Florida!

Corn and sorghum mazes are great family fun in October. Photo credit: Carrie Stevenson

Corn and sorghum mazes are great family fun in October. Photo credit: Carrie Stevenson

October is a glorious time of year in northwest Florida. Temperatures are cooler, skies seem bluer, and the summer crowds have left the still-warm waters of the Gulf mostly to us locals. It is also the perfect time to explore the many local, state, and national parks nearby, or visit farms that share their harvest with the community. Santa Rosa County’s “Beaches to Woodlands” tour, now in its 12th year, is a perfect example of the many events and opportunities available to residents in our area. A schedule of 40 places and events over the next month can be found at the Beaches to Woodlands website.

As the summer heat fades, the weather is great for hiking! Photo credit: Abbie Seales

As the summer heat fades, the weather is great for hiking! Photo credit: Abbie Seales

Escambia County will also host its annual Farm Tour this month, which highlights local growers of peanuts, cotton, and forestry. There are still spots available for this day-long tour of north Escambia County available online.

The newly released Naturally EscaRosa smartphone app, available free for iPhones (App Store) or Android (Google Play) lists 101 locations that provide outdoor adventure for every age and interest. From corn mazes and pumpkin patches to monarch migration and water sports, many local businesses provide services and products that are perfect for celebrating autumn in Florida.

Take the time this month to get outside, visit a farm, eat some locally produced food and explore the trails and wildlife in the area. You won’t regret it!


Author: Carrie Stevenson – ctsteven@ufl.edu

Coastal Sustainability Agent, Escambia County Extension

Carrie Stevenson

Permanent link to this article: http://franklin.ifas.ufl.edu/newsletters/2015/10/09/endless-october-options-in-northwest-florida/

Pregnancy Diagnosis Options for Beef Cattle Producers

Figure 1. Picture depicting the correct location for collection of blood samples from the tail vein. Photo by Cliff Lamb

Figure 1. Picture depicting the correct location for collection of blood samples from the tail vein. Photo by Doug Mayo

Generally, beef herd pregnancy rates after a 60–120-day breeding season tend to range from 80 to 94 percent. Pregnancy diagnosis identifies the 6–20 percent of open cows in the herd so they can be culled after their calves at side are weaned, instead of waiting to the end of the subsequent calving season. Considering that the annual feed/forage costs associated with maintaining a mature cow can be as high as $ 400 to $ 600 per year, culling open cows can save as much as $ 250 per head that can be diverted to the purchase or development of replacement females, sire selection, increased nutritional management, and other management-related costs. Pregnancy diagnosis can be performed simply at the time that producers work their cattle during their vaccination schedule or even at the time of weaning. There are three practical methods that can be utilized for pregnancy diagnosis in beef herds: 1) rectal palpation, 2) transrectal ultrasonography, or 3) use of a blood sample that is submitted to a laboratory for analysis and results returned to the producer within a few days.

Rectal palpation is an accurate form of pregnancy diagnosis that can be performed by a skilled technician after day 35 of pregnancy throughout gestation until birth. Most veterinarians are proficient at pregnancy diagnosis in the form of rectal palpation and it is a simple procedure that requires little time in the cattle-handling facility. However, rectal palpation does not provide any information about the viability of the embryo/fetus. Therefore, some animals with a nonviable embryo/fetus or an embryo/fetus in the process of degenerating might be diagnosed as pregnant. Costs of rectal palpation vary widely based on the number of females to be handled, the distance that a veterinarian must travel, or the time and facilities used. Generally, rectal palpation costs will range from $ 2.50 to $ 15.00 per female. A primary advantage of rectal palpation is that the result is chute-side, with an immediate diagnosis that allows a producer to make a decision while the cow is in the chute.

Transrectal ultrasonography, more commonly called ultrasound, can be used to detect pregnancy as early as 26 days of gestation for heifers and 28 days of gestation for cows, with a high degree of accuracy. For a skilled technician, the procedure is as fast as rectal palpation and may provide additional information in terms of embryo/fetus viability, incidence of twins, and potentially the sex of the fetus (usually performed around day 55 of gestation). Prior to the development of ultrasound for pregnancy diagnosis in cattle, technicians were unable to accurately determine the viability or number of embryos or fetuses. Because the heartbeat of a fetus can be detected at approximately 22 days of age, one can accurately assess whether or not the pregnancy is viable. Producers also should be aware that early embryonic loss is a natural occurrence in cattle and may be evident between the time of pregnancy diagnosis and calving, and that this is not the result of the actual pregnancy diagnosis procedure. For example, we have observed about a 4.2 percent incidence of embryonic loss in beef heifers initially ultrasounded at day 30 of gestation and subsequently palpated rectally between day 60 and day 90 after insemination. In beef cows embryonic loss ranges from 3 to 8 percent from 30 to 75 days of gestation, whereas in dairy cattle, pregnancy loss from 28 to 56 days after artificial insemination was 13.5 percent. Therefore, ultrasonography provides a tool to accurately differentiate between the failure of a female to conceive and the incidence of embryonic mortality, because a heartbeat is detectable at 22 days of gestation.

Blood samples are now a suitable alternative for determination of pregnancy. There are at least two primary blood sample pregnancy test kits (BioPRYN and PG29).  Blood samples are taken to evaluate for pregnancy-associated glycoproteins (PAG). Heifers and lactating cows can be tested 30 days or later after breeding. Lactating cows carry residual PAG from the previous pregnancy until 90 days after calving. To prevent receiving a false-positive test result, producers should sample blood 30 days or more after the conclusion of the breeding season, and 90 days or more after calving. Thus if a cow is bred 60 days after calving, it is appropriate to take the sample 30 days post-breeding, which is 90 days after calving. If she is bred 55 days after calving, then the post-breeding sample should be taken at 35 days so that the cow is 90 days post-calving.

The blood tests are greater than 99 percent accurate if the result is negative or not pregnant, with less than 1 percent showing false-open (false-negative). The false-pregnant (false-positive) rate for the test is approximately 5 percent. In practice, high-producing dairy cows tend to show slightly higher false-positive rates of 7 to 8 percent, especially during periods of extremely hot weather. It is presumed that a portion of this variance is due to greater early embryonic death and not to the inaccuracy of the blood test. The tests cost between $ 2.40 to $ 4.00 per cow from the laboratory that processes and conducts the test, plus the cost of a sample tube and needle. Shipping expenses also must be added if the tests are not processed locally. A primary drawback of this method of pregnancy diagnosis is that results are not immediate. A producer must wait for the results to be sent from a laboratory before a diagnosis is confirmed. This period varies between 2 and 5 days depending on when the laboratory receives the samples.

Producers interested in using a blood test can find additional information on the following websites:
BioPRYN Blood Pregnancy Test
DG29™ Blood Pregnancy Test



Author: gclamb – gclamb@ufl.edu


Permanent link to this article: http://franklin.ifas.ufl.edu/newsletters/2015/05/23/pregnancy-diagnosis-options-for-beef-cattle-producers/

Enhancing Sustainability Options for Farmers

Enhancing Sustainability Options for Farmers

Irrigated Cotton at NFRECEnhancing Sustainability Options for Farmers

Article by Margaret Lawrence, News Unit Manager, Alabama Cooperative Extension

Weather is one of farming’s greatest challenges. But Dr. Brenda Ortiz, a corn and grain crops specialist with Alabama Extension, says farmers’ abilities to manage production risks like drought or heavy rains are improving.

“Many of the farmers who are leading the way in the use of risk resilient practices learned about them at Southeast Climate Extension workshops and outreach programs,” said Ortiz.

Producers can learn more about climate adaptation strategies at Ag Solutions Day Aug. 10 in Orange Beach, Alabama. The one-day event is free and will be held at the Orange Beach Events Center, 4671 Wharf Parkway. The meeting is slated for 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Central Daylight Time and lunch will be provided.

Registration is encouraged by July 31. Visit http://www.aces.edu/go/551 to register online.  For more information, contact Jeana Baker at (334) 844-3922 or jlb0040@auburn.edu.

“Producers will learn best options for reducing climate-related risks,” said Ortiz. “In addition, they will learn the latest on solution-oriented technologies that will help them better manage risk.”

“Farmers will see innovations that can enhance their sustainability as well learn strategies that will allow them to upscale their production levels.”

Breakout Sessions

  • Conservation tillage and high-residue cover crops
  • Sub-surface drip irrigation
  • Variable rate irrigation
  • Sod-based rotation
  • Sesame—A New Crop for Southeast
  • Use of Drones in Agriculture

    Non-shatering varieites allow for mechnical harvesting at the end of the season.  Photo credit:  Doug Mayo

    Non-shattering varieties of sesame allow for mechanical harvesting at the end of the season. Photo credit: Doug Mayo

Producers will have a chance to get hands-on experience with Agroclimate website. AgroClimate uses crop simulation models along with climate data allowing producers to compare changes in possible outcomes under different conditions. Users can monitor growing degree days, chill hours, freeze risk, disease risks for selected crops and current and projected drought conditions. They can also learn about climate cycles affecting the Southeast, such as the El Niño.

Finally, participants will hear from farmers, industry representatives and Extension professionals during a panel discussion on agricultural solutions as well as a climate outlook for this summer and fall.

“Sponsored by Southeast Climate Extension project, this workshop offers growers a unique opportunity to learn from other growers as well as Extension professionals and scientists from a number of universities,” said Ortiz.

Southeast Climate Extension Project is a network of row crop farmers, agricultural Extension specialists, researchers and climate scientists engaging in climate adaptation dialogue in the southeastern United States. AG Solutions Day is the Southeast Climate Extension Project’s annual adaptation exchange outreach event.

Vetch is a native forage legume planted can be planted for cool season forage

Vetch is a native legume which can be planted as cool season forage.



Author: Libbie Johnson – libbiej@ufl.edu

Agriculture agent at UF IFAS Escambia County Extension.

Libbie Johnson

Permanent link to this article: http://franklin.ifas.ufl.edu/newsletters/2015/05/16/enhancing-sustainability-options-for-farmers/

Fruit Tree Options for the Florida Panhandle

Fruit Tree Options for the Florida Panhandle

Fruit trees are a wonderful addition to the landscape at home or even a great niche for the small farmer.


Most people love the thought of picking fresh fruit off of the tree or vine and knowing exactly where it comes from.  There are a lot of considerations that must be taken into account for a homeowner looking to spice up the landscape or the small farmer looking to diversify their operation.

IFASChillMapChill Requirements:

Deciduous trees have a chilling requirement in order to flower and produce fruit.  Species and cultivars will have their own number of chill hours that must be met.  Chill units are the estimated accumulative number of hours at 45°F or under during the dormant season.  The Panhandle of Florida receives the most chill units in the state, therefore allowing more of a selection of fruit trees.

Disease Pressures:

Pecan, Peach/Nectarine, Plum, Bunch Grape, Apple, and Pear all have high disease pressures in the climate of the Florida Panhandle.  Peach and Nectarine, for example, have a high number of necessary fungicide sprays required for high quality fruit.  Mushroom root rot, peach scab, bacterial leaf spot, and brown rot are a few diseases of Peach and Nectarine.  The other fruits mentioned have a similar list of disease problems that demand frequent and timely applications of fungicides.


Peach tree affected by Bacterial Leaf Spot symptoms. Photo by G. England.

Along with disease pressures and chilling requirements, there are other factors that have to be taken into account before installing fruit trees in Northwest Florida.  The sustainability of fruit trees in North Florida can be read about further in this UF/IFAS publication.  In the publication, proper varieties and cultivars are listed for the fruit crops discussed. To learn more about fruit culture in Florida, please take a look at the following linked publications.

If questions arise about whether a certain fruit crop can be grown in the Florida Panhandle, contact your local extension agent.




Author: Blake Thaxton – bthaxton@ufl.edu

Santa Rosa County Extension
Agent I, Commercial Horticulture

Blake Thaxton

Permanent link to this article: http://franklin.ifas.ufl.edu/newsletters/2013/07/22/fruit-tree-options-for-the-florida-panhandle/

Cool Season Forage Options for Winter Livestock Feeding

The latest long range forecast from NOAA is encouraging with at least average rainfall this winter.


Livestock feed prices have risen sharply due to the drought reduced corn crop in the Midwest.  What had been fairly reasonable by-product feeds several years ago, have risen to the point that many ranchers are strongly considering increasing the acreage of cool season forages for winter cattle feeding this year.  This week the Alabama Market News Service reported that bulk corn gluten feed was trading at $ 255-280 per ton, soybean hulls were $ 215-220 per ton, and whole cottonseed was $ 255-280 per ton.  But, these price quotes do not include the freight to have them hauled to the farm.

Many areas of the Panhandle saw a dramatic increase in rainfall through the summer, so soil moisture levels in most areas are high enough for getting cool season forages established.  The latest long range forecast from NOAA is also encouraging for at least average rainfall this winter.

All of these factors suggest that it may be a good year to invest in cool season forages, to grow your own feed and let the livestock do the harvesting and hauling.  If you are going to invest in winter forages, you want to select the varieties that have the best disease resistance and highest yield potential.  Below are the varieties that performed best over the last two years for Dr. Ann Blount at the North Florida Research and Education Center near Marianna.


Winter forage variety test results from UF/IFAS NFREC Marianna.



Doug Mayo

Permanent link to this article: http://franklin.ifas.ufl.edu/newsletters/2012/10/13/cool-season-forage-options-for-winter-livestock-feeding/

Free Webinar: Managing High Feed Prices: Know Your Options

Title:  Managing High Feed Prices: Know Your Options

Date: Monday October 15th

Time:  9:30-11:00 am ET

URL: https://connect.uky.edu/mhfp/


Description:  In this first seminar, Beef Cattle Extension Specialists from the Southeast region will provide an overview of available co-product feedstuffs and molasses-based supplements.  Discussions  will cover nutritional aspects and how these products best fit into supplementation programs for beef cattle.  Presenters will include: Dr. John Arthington (Univ. of Florida), Dr. Lawton Stewart (Univ. of Georgia), Dr. Matt Poore (North Carolina State Univ.), Dr. Darrel Rankin (Auburn Univ.), Dr. Jeff Lehmkuhler (Univ. of Kentucky).

Directions:  Sign on at the URL listed above and log in as a guest.  The name request if for identification to address questions.  The Univ. of Kentucky is hosting the event using Adobe. connect


A SERA-41 Beef Cattle Production Utilizing Forages in the Southeast across State Boundaries co-sponsored webinar.

Doug Mayo

Permanent link to this article: http://franklin.ifas.ufl.edu/newsletters/2012/10/06/free-webinar-managing-high-feed-prices-know-your-options/

Sustainable Vegetable Production Options for Small Operations

The local food movement’s growth has fueled interested in urban farms. For small operations in the extreme west part of panhandle Florida, one production method rising in popularity is raised bed hydroponics. It is simply what the title implies: a raised bed lined with plastic and operated as a hydroponic growing system.

The West Florida Research and Education Center (WFREC) and Dr. Ronnie Schnell, along with educational programs from the Escambia County Extension Service, are gathering data and providing education opportunities for producers interested in diversifying their operation with this technique.

The startup costs are minimal compared to buying large equipment for in-ground production or readymade hydroponic systems from a horticulture supplier. Costs of materials will total $ 235 or less for a bed that will hold up to 250 plants.

This system does not require a pump (the machine in the photo is for nutrient data collection) and with proper placement, the Styrofoam can block almost all growth of algae. Miracle Gro can be used as the nutrient solution, with an addition of Epsom Salt. The trial has used a tomato solution mixed for greenhouse use with tremendous success.

Several varieties of lettuce and herbs have been growing in the system since installation at the WFREC in August 2011. The system typically holds up to six weeks of production with a harvest at least once a week, depending when transplanted were introduced into the system.

Seedlings typically take four weeks to reach the right transplant stage this system. Few pest and little disease have been encountered to date. One challenge has been proper monitoring of the nutrient solution after significant rainfall events.

Currently, forecast net returns for crops grown in this system indicate a high potential for a profit in the first year of operation. With proper attention to plant nutrition, seedling health, and harvest dates, these pesticide-free lettuce or herb varieties may command top market value.

For more information or questions contact Allison Meharg, Escambia County Extension, 850-475-5230 or allisonm@ufl.edu .


Permanent link to this article: http://franklin.ifas.ufl.edu/newsletters/2012/06/22/sustainable-vegetable-production-options-for-small-operations/