There also are questions about adapting a system developed in arid regions to a more tropical climate like Florida’s and sacrificing frost protection from microsprinklers.
At Rock Bottom, Spyke says he doesn’t expect to need frost protection from a microsprinkler system. “For anyone in south Florida, this is the way to go. When you hit Orlando and above, then you might need to use microjets for cold protection. I really see this as a benefit in south Florida where they have so much greening and canker pressure and so many groves that need to be replanted,” he says.
Questions also remain about the rootstocks, nutrient recommendations and management requirements to be successful. But Spyke says he hopes to answer these variables with his demonstration grove.
“So far, everything is working almost exactly like the South Africans predicted it would work. The trees are growing nicely, getting the root balls, the crop loads are progressing about how we expected. At this point, I see nothing to indicate there is any doubt about whether or not it is going to work,” Spyke says.
But he also cautions that there are a lot of subtleties to using such complex systems. He says it is much different from the fairly structured citrus production practices that are common among large scale operations. The practice of sitting down at the beginning of the year and planning how much fertilizer to buy, when to use it, etc., has been honed down over the years to simplify the decisions as much as possible.
“It has proven to be a profitable way to go about it because it is fairly predictable, at least before greening. But what has happened is we have gotten away from being true horticulturists where we are paying a lot of attention to what the trees are doing and how they are acting,” Spyke says, adding that open hydroponic and advanced production systems allow growers to pay attention and respond to scenarios to improve the growth and fruit production of the tree. “It rewards efforts to make the system as complex as possible.”